What people say about Color and Money-

"Anyone interested in the inequities of the selective college admissions process will find Color and Money clear-eyed, hard-hitting, enlightening, and informative."--Rachel Toor, author of Admissions Confidential: An Insider's Account of the Elite College Selection Process.
"For those concerned about why the march toward social justice in America has faltered badly for nearly forty years, Peter Schmidt's Color and Money is a highly instructive--and greatly disturbing--guidepost." --Richard Kluger, author of Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality.
"An indispensible guide to the debate over affirmative action in the United States."--Michael Lind, author of The Next American Nation.
"This book is a must read for anyone concerned with access to higher education, especially to the nation’s elite universities, as well as with larger questions of social policy and social justice."--Terry MacTaggart, Former Chancellor, University of Maine System
"Books on the highly-charged issue of affirmative action are usually one-sided and inflammatory. Peter Schmidt's Color and Money is a wonderful exception. It provides an honest and fair examination that is also passionate and illuminating."--Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation, and author of The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action

Peter Schmidt is available as a speaker

Peter Schmidt is available to speak at colleges, bookstores, schools, churches, and at gatherings of education associations. His past speaking engagements are listed at the bottom of this Web site. If interested in having him appear, e-mail him at schmidt_peter@msn.com. He also is available as an expert source for journalists covering affirmative action. Those on a tight deadline should email him at peter.schmidt@chronicle.com.

Hear interviews with Peter Schmidt

Jack Lessenberry of Michigan Public Radio talked to Peter Schmidt about Color and Money in August. You can hear the interview here. Reading the book inspired Jack to write an essay on it, which you can read here. You also can hear Peter Schmidt talk about his book on the NPR program Justice Talking and in a Chronicle of Higher Education podcast.

Color and Money Is a College Course!

Many college professors are now using Color and Money in their classes, but Jack Dougherty, the director of the educational studies program at Trinity College in Connecticut, has gone a big step beyond. He has decided to name a freshman seminar "Color and Money" and to structure the class around the book. He has graciously agreed to share his syllabus, available here, for faculty members at other colleges who may have the same idea.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

An interview with two college leaders who are getting minority students to achieve at high levels (reprinted with permission from The Chronicle)

Peter Schmidt (Moderator):
Welcome to the Chronicle's live colloquy. I am Peter Schmidt, a Chronicle deputy editor who covers affirmative action and other issues related to diversity, and my guests today are Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Susan B. Layden, associate dean of student affairs at Skidmore College. Both operate programs shown to help more black, Hispanic, and Native American college students earn high grades, and both have graciously offered to field questions. Thank you, Ms. Layden and Mr. Hrabowski, for being here today. I also want to thank those who have taken the time to join us.

Question from Peter Schmidt:
In getting things started, I would like to ask a few questions to help broadly frame the discussion. First of all, why have you two chosen to focus on promoting high achievement so much? I mean, the old joke goes "What do you call the guy who finished last in his medical school class? You call him doctor." So long as black, Hispanic, and Native American students students are graduating from our colleges and professional schools and earning academic credentials, should we really be all that worried about whether they have as many high grades on their transcripts as students who are white or Asian American? Ms. Layden, I am curious about your perspective on this as an administrator at a small, elite liberal arts college.

Susan B. Layden:
We find so few students of color at the highest levels of achievement in their programs, beginning in undergraduate school. There is a relationship between achievement at the undergraduate level, and subsequent performance in graduate school, professional school, and in their careers. We know that we need more students going to graduate and professional schools and entering professions at all possible levels. Here is the point: The country needs to see people of all types achieving at levels of excellence. For example, we know that people who enter the professorate tend to have excelled in their academic work and research across disciplines, and we have far too few professors of color in the sciences, humanities, engineering, and social sciences. We need role models of all types in our colleges and universities. Focusing on high achievement should not prevent us from supporting students at other levels of achievement.

Question from Peter Schmidt:
Mr. Hrabowski, anything you would like to add, coming from a large research university? You told me that you think too many colleges are ignoring this issue. Why do you think that is the case?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
Most colleges have never experienced or seen large numbers of students of color excelling, and one has to wonder if people think it's possible.

Question from Peter Schmidt:
At least a few college administrators, as well as people affiliated with foundations that seek to promote diversity, have told me that we really won't see a marked increase in the share of minority students earning high GPAs without dramatic improvements in elementary and secondary education. Do you agree with this, Mr. Hrabowski? Is it realistic, or wise, to wait for schools to improve?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
There is no doubt that the stronger pre-college background of a student the greater the probability excelling in college. However, large numbers of well-prepared students of color and others enter colleges and do not receive the academic and emotional support necessary for success. We can do much more now to increase the number of such students who excel.

Question from Peter Schmidt:
How about you, Ms. Layden? You operate programs at Skidmore that focus on taking applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, who do not meet Skidmore's regular admissions standards, and getting them to perform better than might be expected based on their academic profiles coming out of high school. How far down into the applicant pool does your program reach? How far could it?

Susan B. Layden:
Skidmore's Opportunity Programs receive approximately 300 referrals each year from our Office of Admissions, and we send offers of enrollment to about 60 of those students. We are making offers to the strongest students in our pool-- high-achieving students with weak testing from weak schools. If we had the capacity-- both in financial aid and staffing-- to serve more students, we could easily do so as these students are in our pool.

Question from Donald Earl Collins, Partnerships for College Access and Success:
Although I know that the vast majority of students of color attend predominantly White institutions, what is the high achievement rate of students of color at historically Black, Latino or American Indian institutions? And, if rates at those institutions are higher, what are those institutions doing that predominantly White and the 180 or so elite institutions could also do?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
We can find high achievement among students at a number of HPCUs, however if you look at the retention and graduation rates at many of these campuses are quite low because of the lack of academic preparation of students and, in other case, because of financial challenges. Historically, many of the highest achieving African American leaders were graduated from these institutions. A number of these institutions continue to graduate our black leaders. What we can learn from these institutions is the importance of close interaction between faculty and students and emphasis on supporting students.

Question from Sandi O'Brien,Morningside College:
Would you consider your work with students at Skidmore College to be a "learning community"? I have done similar work and consider my group to be a learning community that is both academic and social in it's support of students.

Susan B. Layden:
Yes. Absolutely.

Question from Sam, UT-Austin:
Is the performance gap more of an issue than the educational attainment gap, along racial/ethnic lines, or are they inextricably linked? Is the assumption that the performance gap leads to the attainment gap or are they mutually exclusive? Do good grades necessitate completion and do bad grades necessitate drop-out (stop-out)? Should we focus more exclusively on completion and see the performance gap as a symptom?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
Clearly performance and attainment are inextricably linked. Generally, the stronger the academic performance of a student, the greater the chance that that student will graduate from college and move on to either graduate school or a good job. Unfortunately, a number of student perform poorly and will leave college. Sometimes the performance problem is related to academic preparation, and in other cases to financial or other personal problems. We should continue to focus on helping students complete programs while paying more attention to their performance along the way.

Question from Jennifer Ruark, CHE:
As a result of legal pressure, few colleges continue to operate programs solely for minority students. Most, Skidmore and UMBC among them, have opened such programs to students of any race or ethnicity. Does having to serve students of any race or ethnicity dilute your efforts? Do you think other colleges are less likely to set up such programs or give them the money they need if white and Asian American students will be in the mix?

Susan B. Layden:
Skidmore's Opportunity Programs were never raced-based programs. The State guidelines that established the program are based on economic and academic eligibility.

We do believe that the diversity of our program actually helps us achieve some of our learning and other program goals. Our students often talk about this throughout their Skidmore experience.

Question from Nancy, urban community college:
What do you think is the single most important factor a community college can address which will improve the grades of black, Hispanic, and Native American community college students? Thank you

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
They can focus more attention on the first year of academic and social adjustment to the institution. Students are often intimidated by the college experience, and sometimes don't know how to study. They need as much guidance as possible in a caring environment.

Question from Jeffrey Brainard, Chronicle of Higher Education:
Although the federal government has sponsored programs for more than three decades to improve students' performance in math and science, many commentators have suggested that progress has been slow and few such programs have been proven effective. Why isn't there a stronger consensus by now about what works? And what should be the standard of efficacy, if not randomized controlled trials?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
We have not given math and science education the level of rigorous analysis that we show in math and science research. We need the best thinkers looking closely at what works and raising questions about how we are spending money today.

Question from David B. Merrell, Abilene Christian University:
How do you structure a program to help a special population without being discriminatory? How do you funnel students into a program without apparent discrimination, not discrimination on performance by appearing to target a minority population?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
I suggest structuring a program that is strengths-based that would include the population of interest, as well as other students. The more inclusive the program the less likely the backlash. The most important challenge is to create an environment that encourages honest, robust dialogue about the issues.

Question from Alan Contreras, State of Oregon:
The Chronicle introduces this colloquy with the phrase: "Most colleges have not come close to eliminating the academic performance gap that separates many minority students from their counterparts." This clearly begs the question: why does society expect colleges as institutions to eliminate this gap, rather than students, parents, high schools and other parties? I'd be interested in the panelists' thoughts on the responsibility, if any, of colleges to guarantee a particular performance level by a specific group of students.

Susan B. Layden:
A good question, and fair point. I think that colleges and universities do have a responsibility to be committed to the success of all students-- and to think of their students' success as a measure of the institutional success. It is also the case that if we look at every problem as one that someone else should fix, then we will never make any systemic change.

Question from Peter Schmidt:
Spelman College's president, Beverly Tatum, stopped by The Chronicle a few weeks ago. I asked her about the academic performance gap, and she responded with a question I found striking. She asked: "In a society built on white supremacy, would we really be happy if the black kids or the Latino kids were doing as well as the white kids?" Do you think the elimination of the academic performance gap is an outcome the powers that be in our society truly want?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
I don't think that Americans in general have come to understand what it will take for the performance gap to be eliminated. Unfortunately, sometimes when children of color are succeeding we do find others questioning any special support they receive, for example, and we immediately begin hearing accusations of unfairness. Part of the problem is we've not taught history well enough in the country to understand why we are where we are today with regard today to the disparity in performance when thinking about race and income. I do believe that most Americans understand that we as a country will be more competitive if we have larger numbers of educated citizens. We simply don't understand what it will take to make that happen. What becomes especially sensitive is what my book says about raising high achieving African Americans -- we need to be more supportive about raising families of color and working class families, as they raise their children.

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
As an afterthought to the last question, we need our American leaders asking the hard questions, as president Tatum was doing.

Question from Karin Fischer, Chronicle of Higher Education:
Do you have any concern that by placing these students into a special program you risk stigmatizing them? How do ensure that as they adjust academically to the expectations of college, they also are making a healthy transition socially?

Susan B. Layden:
Good question. Of course, we worry about stigmatizing students-- and the reality is that this can be their experience. We do a lot of work during our summer program and during their first year to get students connected to faculty, to administrators, and to other students on campus. We strongly encourage our students to participate in pre-orientation programs in the hope that such experiences will help them bond with other students in advance of beginning their first year. We talk about this issue with our students and ultimately hope that their determination and courage will help them through the rough moments. We also hope that having a "home base" of sorts in the Opportunity Programs' Office helps them vent and work through these times with staff who know and understand them-- and know and understand the campus.

Question from Bernice, SPSU:
Has anyone seen the value of including the family in the dialog of the student with the Univeristy?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
We at UMBC emphasize the importance of families, especially for our first year students. Young people don't become adults overnight. And parents know their children better than others, usually. And so we encourage interaction between the campus and families, particularly in the first year, to support students.

Question from Michael, small private college:
One of the challenges our campus faces is the lack of a "critical mass" of non-white students. While we are working to change it, the number of minority students remains small. We've struggled finding the best way to support students without further identifying them as "different" than the rest of campus. Any suggestions?

Susan B. Layden:
I think having focus groups which could be with only minority students or could include minority students can be helping in hearing and understanding their voices. It can also be helpful to invite professionals of color to the campus to speak to all students and to meet with different groups. Finally, identify alumni of color, even if the number is small, and invite them to spend time on campus.

Question from Jowel Laguerre, Truckee Meadows Community College:
Dr, Hrabroski, What do you think community colleges can contribute to the achievement of under-represented students? Is there anything we can do better?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
Community college are playing an increasingly important role in America in educating these students. As a matter of fact, I often encourage four year institutions to look at strategies used by community colleges to support students. Most important, these institutions can strengthen the reading, math, and writing skills while helping them to dream about the possibilities.

Question from Corey Bradford, SIU:
Question 1

I have found that many minority students have lower expectations for what they can achieve in college. Many see a letter grade of C as being acceptable for most challenging classes. How can we help minority students overcome any self-thought in their abilities to achieve academic excellence and what factors on campus may be contributing to such negative feelings?

Question 2
On some campuses, the majority of minorities are first generation students or low income students, so their focus is on surviving and graduating from college, not necessarily achieving some type of academic honors. They face many obstacles that other students do not have to deal with such as integration, isolation, prejudice, low expectations, unmet financial need, and unwelcoming environments. How do we get the financial support necessary from campus leaders to implement effective support programs that work to help minority students overcome these obstacles and to achieve their full potential?

Susan B. Layden:
For some students getting a degree is the end goal for college; I don't necessarily believe this is just a problem for minority or first-generation students.

We do believe that having high academic expectations for incoming students-- from the recruitment process on--- is significant in promoting academic achievement.

Getting institutional support for these efforts is hard work, and it requires broad institutional support. What is cool about Skidmore is that we are fortunate to have support from our trustees, senior administration and faculty. This support is also evident to the students, and this helps them as well.

This kind of support is significant. It also requires constant work.

Question from Charles Graessle, Olivet College:
We have a long history of servicing 12 - 18% African Americans each year. We also note that the first year is critical for these students, but we also have noticed that there is a continued difficulty through the next three years. My impression is that underrepresented minorities face barriers to long-term persistence. I have looked at the IPEDS data and found that the percent receiving federal aid is as powerful - confounded - variable that can explain a lot of the inter-institutional graduation rate data. On another note, I agree with previous posters that this topic is too often ignored. (I noticed that the recent Chronicle article on USNWR rankings, which did discuss graduation rates, did not discuss economic need or underrepresented minority status. For the record, I enjoyed the article!) Has anyone else notice these patterns?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
There is no doubt that we need to be looking carefully at the financial challenges that low-income students face. For example, students of color and low income students are often reluctant to take out loans. In other cases, students may not have considered the negative impact of outside work in relationship to a number of courses taken per semester. We also need to look at the impact of family circumstances on students.

Question from Gilda Garcia, Texas State University-San Marcos:
If stereotyping has a negative impact on grades for minority students and since this dynamic is often subconscious, what can be done to change this mindset?

Susan B. Layden:
We try to emphasize the success of our students. If we spend time pointing to the significant accomplishments of our students, then students come to sense that this is what we expect from them and what we believe they are capable of. Faculty at the college also come to expect high achievement from the Opportunity Program students. This is work that never ends.

Question from Sandi O'Brien, Morningside College:
Do you see value in social and emotional support from faculty and staff (within ethical limits of course) in addition to empowering the students to be their own support community on a campus. Can you speak to that?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
Absolutely. It is important to create a culture that encourages faculty and staff to get to know students beyond the classroom and also to encourage students to give each other support. One of the reasons our UMBC students do so well is that faculty and staff connect with them in labs, in theatre productions, at the lunch table. And equally important, we strongly encourage group study and peer support.

Question from Milton Marks, Trustee, City College of San Francisco:
Particularly for community colleges that bear the largest burden for remedial education, there needs to be greater cooperation between colleges and school districts. It's very difficult, however, to talk about the high failure rate for some groups without people getting defensive. Are there good examples of community college districts and school districts cooperating in ways that REALLY make a difference in student performance?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
We have been working with the Baltimore County community colleges and Montgomery College, in Maryland, and the school systems in those districts to look closely at teaching and learning. In fact, a number of National Science Foundation programs encourage interaction between k-12 and higher education in support of students. The most important factor we find in leading to success is trust among the different groups, and trust can only be built through day-to-day interaction and understanding each other's perspectives.

Question from Tom Brady, College of Mount Saint Vincent:
We provide a Bridge program for "at risk"students, plus lots of academic support, yet our black and Hispanic students still lag. What else can we do to overcome poor preparation?

Susan B. Layden:
One thing to do would be to look at the rigor and challenges of your bridge program. Does it accurately prepare students for the demands of their first year? What changes can be made to improve this relationship?

To what extent are other factors influencing academic performance? For example, are you sure students are lagging because of poor preparation?

Also, we need to remember that there isn't a five-week solution to poor preparation; rather, we need to develop four-year long programs of support to bridge the gap and promote high academic achievement.

Question from John Rosenberg, www.discriminations.us:
For Mr. Hrabowski: Is the Meyerhoff program at UMBC, or any other program at UMBC, limited to minorities? If so, doesn't it run afoul of the Fourth Circuit's Podberesky decision, which barred a race-exclusive scholarship at UM-College Park?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
None of our programs are limited to minorities. All are inclusive.

Question from Peter Schmidt:
One of the more vexing research findings that I encountered in reporting my story was the fact that, where African Americans have made economic and educational gains, those gains are not necessarily being handed down to their children. In aggregate, the children of African Americans who have arguably "made it," and are in the top fourth of society in terms of socioeconomic status, are performing at about the same level as working class whites. Mr. Hrabowski, you have written two books guiding black parents on how to raise academically successful children. Why do you think the children of upper and upper-middle-class black professionals are not doing better in school and college?

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
Large numbers of children are influenced by the popular culture and unfortunately in America many children it's not cool to be smart. Even as middle-class minority students work to support their children we find that what these students see in the media and what they often hear in their neighborhoods is counter to what their parents may be telling them. The point of our books on beating the odds and overcoming the odds is that parents have to be even more proactive in countering these negative messages. It is important to say that in spite of the discouraging findings we can identify many high-achieving minority students. We should be learning from these examples, such as the Meyerhoff scholars at UMBC.

Freeman A. Hrabowski III:
I think it's important to encourage colleagues on campuses, and the general public, to engage in honest discussion about these issues. The real challenge is to create environments in which people can say what they actually think. All of us need to be open-minded in thinking about the problems and solutions.

Question from admissions officer, Ivy graduate school:
Susan, if there is indeed a link between high performance and graduate school attendance, I am wondering if your programs, and other programs like your, do any tracking of graduates of your program to see where they go? Do you play any role in suggesting them to further their education? What can schools like ours, with high standards for admission, do to seek out high achieving students of color graduating from undergraduate institutions?

Susan B. Layden:
We have not done enough longer-term tracking of our students, and plan to do so.

We face some of the same problems promoting graduate school that students encounter when they think about college in the first place: how do I pay for this? My family needs me to come back and help support them.

Good advising is extremely important. I also think that contacts are important. Wouldn't it be great if we could develop partnerships between colleges and graduate school programs? We would love to see elite graduate programs recruit students from our program!

Peter Schmidt (Moderator):
I am afraid we are out of time. I am sorry if we did not get to some questions from our readers, but I am confident that there will be plenty more discussion of these topics in the future. Thank you, Mr. Hrabowski and Ms. Layden, for being here today. I appreciate your time.