A paper presented at the annual convention of the American Educational Research Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, finds that students are less concerned about promoting racial understanding when they are seniors than when they were freshmen.
Researchers surveyed students at six liberal arts colleges and 11 universities at the beginning of their first year. The students were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 4, “How important to you personally is helping to promote racial understanding.” (A rating of 4 would be a very high commitment to promoting racial understanding.) The same students were asked the same question at the end of their first year and again when they were seniors.
Overall figures without regard to the race of students showed that 30.5 percent of all respondents thought promoting racial understanding was less important to them after one year in college. Only 17.3 percent of those surveyed reported that racial understanding was more important to them.
The results found that for White students, the average response dropped from 2.47 at the beginning of the freshman year to 2.32 at the end of the first year. There was only a very slight reduction between the end of the first year and the response of White students when they were seniors.
For Black students, the score for entering students of 3.26 dropped to 3.18 at the end of the first year and to 2.95 when they were seniors.
The study was authored by Jesse D. Rude and Gregory C. Wolniak of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and Ernest T. Pascarella, the Mary Louise Petersen Professor of Higher Education at the University of Iowa.
The authors conclude that “a college education does not automatically bestow more open attitudes on issues of race and ethnicity, and postsecondary institutions can take actionable steps to create campus environments that foster more positive racial attitudes.”
To download the paper, click here.