Today’s higher education system is divided into two unequal tracks stratified by race and funding. White students are overrepresented at selective public colleges that are well-funded with high graduation rates, while Blacks and Latinos are funneled into overcrowded and underfunded open-access public colleges with low graduation rates. The gap in funding for instructional and academic support between selective and open-access public colleges has also been growing, which makes the system even more separate and unequal.

Key Findings

There are more than enough Black and Latino students who are qualified to fill the seats that would equalize representation by race and ethnicity at selective public colleges.

Students at selective colleges have an 85 percent chance of graduating, while students at open-access colleges have only a 51 percent chance of graduating. 

Selective public colleges spend, on average, almost three times as much per full-time equivalent student on instructional and academic support as open-access public colleges.

Florida is the only state where the share of Latinos in selective public colleges is equal to the proportion of Latinos in the college-age population. Blacks are not proportionately represented in selective public colleges in any state, although Kentucky comes close.


Watch our video to learn more about today’s separate and unequal public higher education system divided by race that funnels Blacks and Latinos into underfunded open-access public colleges.

Full Report

Our Separate & Unequal Public Colleges: How Public Colleges Reinforce White Racial Privilege and Marginalize Black and Latino Students finds that misguided admissions practices and growing funding gaps are splitting the public higher education system into two unequal tracks demarcated by race.