Minority Elites (MEs) on Elite Campuses: Time to Study this Group of Students

It is a common belief in higher education that the more exclusive one’s university, the better the possibility that students enrolled at said university will get the best education that money can buy. This is because elite, selective universities and colleges are thought to be well-endowed, and therefore able to marshal all of the necessary resources to ensure students’ success.

But no discussion of how university resources are used in order to benefit students can be complete without a discussion of, what I call, “ME’s”, or Minority Elites. Minority Elites are African-Americans, American Indians, Latino/as, and Asians who have been admitted to selective or highly selective institutions of higher learning. 

How do elites measure success? High graduation rates seem to be one obvious proof of success. So is completing an undergraduate degree in four years, and getting a job right after college.

In 2014, it seems anachronistic to think the word “minority” has the same relevancy as it did in the 1960s, for example. Yet, people of color (PoCs) are the subject of recent reports on the topic of race, ethnicity, class and higher ed.

What the literature says

Current research problematizes the experience of traditionally under-represented students (minorities) who attend colleges and universities in the U.S. To sum up the current findings, and note, what I am about to report is a generalization, more traditionally under-represented students (African-Americans, Latino/as) are attending college, but they generally attend what are considered to be schools that are fairly easy to get in to and this is a problem because those schools are generally not very good at providing the kind of resources that are provided to students at elite, and predominantly white, universities. Thus, racial inequality and segregation are exacerbated by higher education, according to a report by Carnevale and Strohl (2013) discussed in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Therefore, the old 1960s topic of inequality is the new topic of debate. 

Another trend in higher education, according to the  _New York Times, _is the increasing number of students from abroad who attend elite colleges and universities. The long-term effect of international student matriculation through American institutions of higher education may be a new area of research. Of particular interest is the impact of these changing demographics on African-American, Native American, and working-class American MEs, and their quest to obtain educational equity with majority peers. For example, will the question of academic standards still be relevant when discussing international-student enrollment? What about remedial education? 

Americans traditionally think of education as the great equalizer. Look at the historic work of the entrepreneurial educator Booker T. Washington, in order to understand the role education has played in the lives of so many African Americans and working-class Americans.

Black elite students have historically relied on a network of colleges and universities that have acceped them when it was  illegal, or socially unacceptable to educate dark-skinned people in America. The question for today’s society is can elite schools do as good a job as other schools have in accepting students who do not fit the traditional college-going demographic? after all, the mission of many HBCUs has been to educate all.

Educators, and philosophers, cultural studies theorists, and historians may wonder how can elite institutions provide the kind of nurturing that black, brown, and economically disenfranchised students who wish to attain a higher education through hard work have come to expect?

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