Fast Facts: Women of Color in Higher Ed

Black women are significantly less than white women to enroll in four-year colleges, graduate within six years and go on to earn advanced degrees.

  • The number of white women (39%) getting an associate or bachelor’s degree by the age of 29 is nearly twice as high as for Black women (21%) and Latinas (20%).
  • Among Black students in higher education, women are more likely than men to earn degrees: Black women get 64.1% of bachelor’s degrees, 71.5% of master’s degrees and 65.9%of doctoral, medical, and dental degrees.
  • Fewer students of color attend four-year colleges than white students do: 30.6% of Latinx; 27.1% of Blacks and 39.3% white.
  • Students of color are significantly more likely to attend for-profit colleges: 25.2% among Latinx to 28% among Blacks vs. 11.4% among whites.
  • More than 64.3% of white students finish a four-year degree within six years, compared to 55% of Latinx students and 39.8% of Black students.
  • Enrollment at the open-access community colleges and four-year colleges and universities is 37% Black and Latinx, compared to enrollment at the top-funded and most selective four-year colleges and universities where enrollment is 75% white.
  • Black and Latinx students are over-represented in the lower-earning majors.
    • The top majors of Black students include: health and medical administration services (21%); human services and community organization (20%); social work (19%); public administration (17%); criminal justice and fire protection (15%); sociology (14%); computer and information systems (14%); human resources and personnel management (14%); interdisciplinary social sciences (13%); and pre-law and legal studies (13%).
    • The top majors of Latinx students include: international business (22%); industrial and manufacturing engineering (17%); French, German, Latin and other common foreign language studies (16%); biomedical engineering (15%); international relations (15%); linguistics and comparative language and literature (14%); general education (12%); human services and community organization (12%); language and drama education (12%).
  • Black women represent just under 7% of the population, but only 4.2% of biology sciences, 2.6% of computer sciences, 2.8% of physical sciences, 2.3% of math and statistics and 0.99% of engineering degrees.
  • Black and Latinx students are more likely to leave STEM majors than white students. At the beginning of studies, around 20% of white, Latinx and Black students declared a STEM major, but the students of color switched out of STEM majors at higher rates: 37% for Latinx and 40% for Black students, compared to 29% of white students. About 20% of Latinx and 26% of Black STEM majors left the institutions without graduating compared, to 13% of white STEM majors.
  • Some schools are creating scholars programs to attract and retain more students of color to earn STEM doctorates, such as the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The Dearth of Black and Latinx Professors

People of color are underrepresented in college faculty and staffs – which contributes to lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in teaching practices and curriculum, as well as role models and support systems for students. To address the issue, some colleges, like the University of California, Los Angeles are requiring applicants for faculty and staff positions to provide information about their experience and contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion.