Rutgers hosts conference on “Broke: The Racial Consequences of Underfunding Public Universities”
The Rutgers Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement and the Eagleton Institute of Politics co-hosted a talk about virtual book Thursday to discuss “Broke: The Racial Consequences of Underfunding Public Universities”.
The books co-authors Laura Hamilton, professor and president of sociology at the University of California (UC) Merced, and Kelly Nielsen, postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, discussed their findings and possible solutions to address inequalities racialism within public universities such as Rutgers.
For most of the 1900s, Hamilton said, people of color were prohibited from attending public institutions of higher education, despite paying taxes to the state and federal governments that funded them. In the 1970s, people of color gained better access to higher education, but the traditional funding structure of public universities also changed, she said.
“The federal and state investments that built a phenomenal post-secondary infrastructure have been fundamentally systematically dismantled,” Hamilton said. “Funding declined as state governments made different choices about where to invest. “
For example, she said, the California state government has cut funding to its public universities and instead increased funding to correctional institutions. These actions coincided with state governments restricting race-based affirmative action policies for college admissions, further affecting people of color in higher education.
Hamilton said much of these political actions were sparked by a decrease in the percentage of white students attending flagship public universities. She said the racial demographics of the student body have changed dramatically, with a 441.7 percent increase in Latinx students and a 39.6 percent increase in black students since 1976.
But without redistribution policies to accompany these demographic changes, segregation persists, she said.
Colleges such as UC Riverside and UC Merced are considered “institutions serving minorities” because they accept a high proportion of students from racial minorities, especially Latinx students, Hamilton said. But Nielsen said these institutions face problems obtaining funding from private sources such as tuition fees, donations and philanthropic investments from companies.
“The budgets of Merced and Riverside depend almost entirely on the public funds they receive,” he said. “Indeed, the Merced foundation receives less than 1% of the private support that the Berkeley foundation receives in any given year.”
Nielsen said a major cause of the reduction in funding for institutions serving minorities lies in neoliberal higher education policies. Neoliberalism is an ideology that supports entities competing in a private market for resources and obtains them on the basis of merit, he said.
But he said neoliberalism fails to take into account the idea that some populations have historically lacked access to wealth, education and social capital, which inherently affects how they compete in a private market. .
“Merit can be thought of as a form of laundering privilege – that is, it takes structural benefits available to some families but not others, and then obscures those privileges,” Nielsen said. “Merit leads to the sorting of students from different racial groups in different schools.”
As a result of these neoliberal policies, Nielsen said UC Merced and UC Riverside serve a large portion of underserved minority students, but lack the funding to provide them with optimal education, unlike universities that serve as students. more privileged and better-off students.
For example, in the 2018-19 academic year, Latinx-dominant institutions earned about $ 4,300 less in revenue per student than other colleges in the same states, he said.
Without proper funding, institutions serving minorities cannot provide their students with essential resources such as low faculty-student ratios, cultural education centers, academic counseling, initiatives aimed at first-generation students, and professional help for graduate students, Nielsen said.
He said faculty and staff looking to help students succeed find their goals limited by a lack of funding and supporting infrastructure and are forced to accept “tolerable under-optimization.”
“When universities that serve disadvantaged groups at high rates run out of resources, they may struggle to produce the kinds of results that create the appearance of merit, and so the neoliberal cycle of resource allocation begins again,” he said. Nielsen said.
Hamilton said Rutgers was emerging as a school that serves underserved and underrepresented racial minorities and therefore should take specific actions to achieve this goal.
For example, she said Rutgers should pressure the state government to fund the university at rates that provide a more racially diverse student body with the same level of education as a whiter and better-off student body.
Hamilton said Rutgers should stop advertising metrics like its students’ standardized test average scores and instead market the value it adds to the lives of students. She said this should be done in tandem with other universities through consortia such as the University Innovation Alliance to ensure success and widespread change.
She said public universities like Rutgers should also embrace the unique perspectives that racially marginalized students bring with them, structuring coursework and academic support to meet their needs – especially for students who cannot rely on their own. family for social capital and financial support.
“Schools need to intentionally think about what the university can offer its students rather than outsourcing student support to families,” she said. “This means ensuring that sufficient counseling, mental health and financial services are in place and educating students how to access them and ensuring that staff have previously worked with students of color and with low-income students. . “
Hamilton said public universities should ensure that racially marginalized students are seen and heard by properly funding cultural centers, hiring and recognizing more people of color on faculty and staff, and examining the relationship between campus police and students of color.
Finally, she said Rutgers should think about how funding is distributed between its New Brunswick, Newark and Camden campuses, given that the latter two serve significantly higher proportions of under-represented minorities.
“You really have to have the campus leadership willing not to always focus on a competition, but rather to say, ‘Okay, we can give here a little bit, and it will be better in the long run if we work together. »», She declared. noted. “State systems will break down and everyone will try to compete for private resources if there is not a common and common interest in convincing the state that it is really worth continuing to invest. “