LOS ANGELES -- More black students in California are earning bachelor's degrees than a decade ago, but enrollment in the state's public universities is stagnant and many are turning to costly for-profit schools, according to a report released this week.
The road to graduation for black students is still pitted with obstacles, despite efforts to close achievement gaps that have persisted over the years, according to the report released Thursday by the Campaign for College Opportunity, a California advocacy group.
The report used census data, state and federal education information and statistics from California's three systems of higher education.
Among the findings:
A report released by the group last month found similar hurdles in higher education for Latinos.
Black students, however, appear to have been disproportionately affected by policy decisions such as the state ban on affirmative action in education and budget cuts in recent years that resulted in significant declines in enrollment at community colleges and Cal State campuses, the report said.
Reluctance on the part of policymakers and educators to tackle racial disparities head-on is one factor in the persistent gaps, said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
"I've come to be more convinced of an inability to really address these issues more openly in a way that forces state policymakers to come up with ideas and colleges to find solutions," Siqueiros said. "Especially after the ban on affirmative action, we don't feel comfortable talking about race and nothing really happens."
Educators said they, too, were disheartened at the lack of progress and argued for more state funding of support services.
"While we have a real challenge on our hands in making sure black and other students achieve success, the reality is that these students need more services in order to be successful," said Jamillah Moore, chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District and former president of Los Angeles City College. "We need to follow up and identity where the best practices are and what is working."
The report contained some good news: The proportion of black students earning a bachelor's degree increased to 24 percent from 18 percent over the last decade, and over the last two decades the number of blacks who graduate from California high schools rose by 48 percent.
But black students have the lowest admission rates to UC -- 58 percent -- of any ethnic group, and the rates have declined significantly since 1994, when 75 percent of black applicants were admitted, according to the report.
Admission rates vary widely by campus: UC Merced, for example, admitted about 76 percent of black applicants while UCLA, in a region with the state's largest black population, admitted only 14 percent.
The report also noted that black adults aged 25 to 34 are less educated than those aged 35 to 64.
"It means that we have failed an entire generation of African-American students and we need to ask ourselves what caused this discrepancy and ensure that we are not making the same mistakes with the next generation," said state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, chairwoman of the California Legislative Black Caucus.
She said caucus members will hold hearings in their districts to attempt to find solutions.