Resources / Reports / Inequities Persist: Access and Completion Gaps at Public Flagships in The Great Lakes Region

Inequities Persist: Access and Completion Gaps at Public Flagships in The Great Lakes Region

Published Oct 2018
focus area Evidence-Based Completion

Public flagship universities were established to provide educational opportunities to state residents and have a responsibility to promote social and economic mobility. But new IHEP research reveals that six of these premier public institutions are failing to enroll and graduate representative shares of their state’s low-income students and students of color.

IHEP’s new analysis, Inequities Persist: Access and Completion Gaps at Public Flagships in the Great Lakes Region, identifies enrollment and completion trends at six state flagship universities:

The individual “Equity Snapshots” reveal that, while these universities are enrolling slightly more Black, Latino, and low-income students than in the past, this progress has not kept pace with changing state demographics. In fact, the access gap for Black students is widening at some flagships. Similarly, while most of the schools have raised their completion rates, students of color and low-income students are still less likely to earn degrees than their White and higher-income peers.

Each “Equity Snapshot” assesses the flagship’s implementation of five equity-driven policies and practices that can exclude qualified low-income applicants and applicants of color. This policy analysis recommends prioritizing need-based aid and eliminating early decision admissions, legacy preferences, and consideration of a students’ demonstrated interest or previous interactions with the criminal justice system.

This report is the result of hard work and thoughtful contributions from many individuals and organizations. We would like to thank the Institute for Higher Education Policy staff who helped in this effort, including Michelle Asha Cooper, president; Kelly Leon, communications and advocacy officer; Kathryn Gimborys, communications associate; Karen Bussey, research analyst; Rachel Gentry and Timothy Kinoshita, policy research interns; and Jamey Rorison, former director of research and policy. We also thank Jennifer Ma for her research assistance, as well as John Stith and Chad Anderson for editing and Amanda Teixeira and Michael Schafer for design.

Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to the Joyce Foundation, which funded this project. Its support of research into equity in college access and completion is vital to this work.

Author’s Note: The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Equity Snapshot was revised on November 8, 2018 to more precisely reflect the institution’s policy on criminal justice involvement disclosures on applications for admissions.

Author’s Note: The Ohio State University – Main Campus and the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Equity Snapshots were revised by the authors on July 17, 2019 to more precisely reflect the annual incomes of parents of students born in 1991 in the top and bottom income quintiles.