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10 Things You Should Know About Higher Education in Underserved Populations

Diversity enriches the educational experience for all students, but it’s lacking in higher education.

The U.S. population is becoming more diverse each year. According to census projections, in 2045, fewer than 50% of Americans will be white.1 It’s critical that higher education reflects the nation’s diversity. Read on to learn 10 things you should know about higher education in underserved populations, including students of color.


  1. College enrollment by Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black students has been increasing over the past several decades, but white students still make up more than half of college enrollees.2
  2. COVID-19 has impacted higher education, with undergraduate enrollment dropping 3.5% over the past year. Enrollment dropped by 5.6% among Native Americans, 5.1% among Blacks, and 2.8% among Hispanics in fall 2021.3
  3. Multiple states have banned affirmative action in higher education admissions. Currently, affirmative action is banned in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington.
  4. Increasing college enrollment for underserved populations is important, but increasing graduation rates is even more crucial. Black students are 25% less likely to graduate from college after six years compared to white students.4
  5. The U.S. economy has become increasingly knowledge-based, driven by technological and scientific innovations. That’s made having a college degree more and more essential. But only 7.8% of Black adults have earned a graduate degree, while 13.4% of white adults have a graduate degree. At the bachelor’s degree level, the gap between Black and white adults is nearly 10%.5
  6. Approximately 17% of Hispanic adults have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, compared to 40% of white adults.6
  7. Increasing college attendance among underrepresented populations benefits all students. A study showed that the more often freshman college students encountered diverse academic settings, the better their leadership skills became.7
  8. A diverse student population can help all students feel more confident about their academic abilities. Research shows that college students who have positive interactions with students from diverse backgrounds in an affirming campus climate have greater confidence in their individual educational aptitude.7
  9. A higher education experience that embraces underserved populations gives all students the opportunity to explore new perspectives, which can help prepare them for successful careers in the global workplace.
  10. Individuals, including those from underserved populations, who have earned master’s and doctoral degrees have an increased opportunity to earn the types of management roles that enable them to participate in policy decisions.

It’s clear that diversity enriches the higher education experience and, ultimately, the workplace. When choosing a university, you may want to consider the student body’s diversity in order to enhance your own educational experience. For example, Walden University is No. 1 for awarding graduate degrees in multiple disciplines to African American students, according to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s Top 100 Degree Producers.8

You can join students from across the U.S. and 116 countries9 who are earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree online at Walden. As a Walden student, you’ll benefit from the opportunity to connect with students and faculty from diverse locations and backgrounds and to exchange perspectives and ideas—all while you earn a degree online. Walden’s online courses foster a deep level of discussion, and its cutting-edge distance learning technology gives you the flexibility to fit coursework into your busy schedule.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

8Source: Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 2019–20 academic year, analysis of U.S. Department of Education reports submitted by institutions, “Top 100 Degree Producers.
9Source: Office of Institutional Effectiveness, as of December 31, 2020.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,