Minority women have less degrees

Fewer minority than white women earn degrees in Minnesota, a recent study said.

Jerret Raffety

Minority women in Minnesota don’t have as many degrees as white women, according to a report from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

The study found that black, Hispanic and American Indian women, on average, have fewer degrees than white women in Minnesota.

The results were based on 2000 census data, said Erin Ceynar, assistant director of development for the foundation.

The results could be because of several factors, said Indira Junghare, a South Asian languages, literatures and cultures professor and department of women’s studies affiliated faculty member.

One reason is that there is an economic disparity between minority groups and the rest of the population, Junghare said. Poor populations stay poor, because they cannot afford the education that would elevate them economically, she said.

“The lowest strata of society needs the closest examination,” she said.

Increased financial incentives, such as scholarships for minority women, should improve these numbers on a statewide level, Junghare said.

In the United States, there is a perceived institutionalized inequality for minority groups, especially women, based on historical example, Junghare said. This discourages women from enrolling in or graduating from universities, she said.

The solution is to combat the problem psychologically, she said.

One way to do this is for the state to allocate funds for programs in public schools to encourage enrollment from minority communities, she said.

The responsibility for getting more minority women in higher education also lies in the hands of University admissions officials, said Lewis Flanagan, a committee member for the Black Student Union.

The union encourages the University to admit more minority students by sponsoring events that establish an open dialogue among minority students and University officials, he said.

However, the problem might go beyond the University, he said.

“We’re a very male-oriented society,” Flanagan said.

“I’ve seen many dialogues where the topic of discussion was the imbalance of scholarships tailored to men versus women.”

The University can also increase these numbers by re-evaluating its admissions priorities, said Naomi Scheman, a professor in the departments of women’s studies and philosophy.

The University’s policy is to increase the number of minority students by recruiting those with the best grades, Scheman said. Although those students will be likely to succeed academically, they will not be as likely to change or challenge the traditional educational environment, she said.

This pattern sends the message that diversity is simply an obligation and not a strength for a university, Scheman said

“Academic excellence is not possible without diversity,” she said.