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Statistical Analysis Report:

Minority Undergraduate Participation in Postsecondary Education

April 1995

(NCES 95-166) Ordering information


The purpose of this report is to provide information concerning minority undergraduate participation in postsecondary education based on the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:90) and to examine postsecondary persistence among racial–ethnic groups using the longitudinal component of NPSAS:90: Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS:90/92).

  • After a dramatic increase in minority enrollment in the 1960s and 1970s, there was uneven progress made in the decade between 1980 and 1990. For example, the proportion of black, non-Hispanic students enrolled in institutions of higher education changed little between 1980 and 1990, ranging from 9.2 percent of the higher education population in 1980 to 8.7 percent in 1988, and rising again to 8.9 percent in 1990. It is encouraging to note, however, that the share of black, non-Hispanic students increased to 9.6 percent in 1992. This recent increase in black, non-Hispanic enrollment rates was noted for both males (7.6 to 8.2 percent) and females (10.0 to 10.8 percent).
  • American Indians/Alaskan Natives also experienced little growth in enrollment in the 1980s, but their enrollment increased from 103,000 to 119,000 between 1990 and 1992, representing an increase of 0.1 percent in their proportion among all undergraduates enrolled in higher education (0.7 to 0.8 percent).
  • Among black, non-Hispanic undergraduates, nearly two-thirds of students enrolled were women, compared with 53 percent of Hispanics and 55 percent of white, non-Hispanic students.
  • Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic students were more likely to be enrolled in private, for profit institutions (20 percent and 15 percent, respectively), and less likely to be enrolled in 4-year colleges or universities than were white, non-Hispanic students. American Indians/Alaskan Natives were also less likely than white, non-Hispanic students to be enrolled in 4-year institutions.
  • On the other hand, American Indians/Alaskan Natives; black, non-Hispanics; and Hispanic undergraduates were no less likely than white, non-Hispanic students to aspire to a bachelor’s or advanced degree.
  • Undergraduates who attended historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) were more likely to aspire to an advanced degree than were students at other 4-year colleges or universities.
  • Persistence rates for 1989–90 beginning postsecondary students pursuing a bachelor’s degree tended to be higher for Asian/Pacific Islander students than for black, non-Hispanic or Hispanic students. (Nearly 70 percent of Asians/Pacific Islanders were continuously enrolled through spring 1992, compared with 50 percent of black, non-Hispanic students and 46 percent of Hispanic students.) However, white, non-Hispanic students’ persistence rates (58 percent), did not differ significantly from any other group.
  • In 1989–90, undergraduates of all racial–ethnic minority groups were less well off financially than their white, non-Hispanic peers: one-third or more of minority students, including 41 percent of black, non-Hispanic students, were in the lowest family income quartile, compared with about 20 percent of white, non-Hispanic students.
  • Among Hispanic ethnic groups, however, Cuban Americans were much more affluent than Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans: 37 percent of Cuban Americans were in the highest income quartile, compared with about 16 percent of either Mexican Americans or Puerto Ricans.
  • Among Asian ethnic groups, Vietnamese undergraduates were among the poorest, with about two-thirds of these students in the lowest income quartile.

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For more information about the content of this report, contact Roslyn Korb at

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education