- Accessing high quality education has been a longstanding challenge for marginalized communities in the U.S.
- BIPOC school-aged children are less likely to have computer and internet access than white children.
- BIPOC communities are affected as education level is linked with health disparities, income, and occupation.
This post was written by Erica D. Marshall–Lee, Ph.D., ABPP, on behalf of the Atlanta Behavioral Health Advocates.
The Supreme Court recently made the decision to end affirmative action in the form of intentional consideration of race in college admissions. As a result, the racism, discrimination, and oppression that have long disadvantaged Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) is likely to continue.
On June 29, the Supreme Court abrogated the University of North Carolina and Harvard’s admission policies that give consideration of applicants’ race in the admission process, putting an end to over 40 years of practice. Combined with the recent trends regarding abortion and anti-trans laws, this decision is likely to have pervasive consequences for our country’s colleges and universities (Gazette, 2023).
Why Was the Supreme Court's Decision on Affirmative Action Important?
Prior to the pandemic, individuals from marginalized and disadvantaged communities were already facing severe challenges in receiving and gaining access to high-quality education; the disparities have been well documented, in resources such as "Educational Disparities Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic (ksu.edu)," among others.
COVID and its sequelae have only served to further widen the educational gap between non-BIPOC and BIPOC communities, and between advantaged and disadvantaged ones. The advent of COVID emphasized the limited access to technology and resources facing many BIPOC communities, especially Hispanic and African-American communities. Black and Hispanic households with school-aged children were 1.3 to 1.4 times as likely as white ones to face limited access to computers and the internet, and more than two in five low-income households had only limited access (Gazette, 2021).
This dilemma had substantial consequences, as young students of color were much more likely to live in remote-only districts. What's more, research has shown the majority of U.S. school children have fallen behind, with students of color having fallen behind the most, especially in math (Gazette, 2021).
Prior to the pandemic, underrepresented communities had fewer economic resources compared to their white counterparts (ksu.edu). Quintana and Mahgoub (2016) reported that ethnic and racial disparities are associated with “limited access to educational and social capital resources, differential treatment of ethnic and racial minority students by educators, and to differential responses to educational practices” (p. 100). BIPOC communities are significantly affected as education is a social determinant of health and is correlated with income and occupation. The CDC reports that “less education predicts earlier death,” because adults with less education have poorer general health, increased chronicity in diagnoses, and greater functional limitations (CDC, 2021).
Indeed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that underrepresented students deal with a number of barriers to college entry. Unfortunately, many are academically behind prior to high school and ill-equipped to take more advanced courses. Additionally, often due to a lack of teachers or resources, schools in their communities may not offer rigorous courses, such as AP courses.
These factors make attainment of grade point averages (GPA) high enough for some four-year college admissions challenging, not to mention navigating the steps involved in applying to and enrolling in college. Difficulties such as housing and food insecurities and racial and other trauma that may be encountered by these students can also interfere with college preparation (GAO, 2018).
When institutions of higher learning take these factors into account, they serve to ameliorate some of the barriers to accessing higher education goals and success as well as the perpetuation of systemic racism. The determination by the Supreme Court is therefore likely to further impede an already disadvantaged group of people toward equity and advancement.
What Can Be Done?
As an African-descended woman who has children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, I am grieving and fearful of what is to come for the future of BIPOC and other underrepresented communities. But while the Supreme Court's decision has led to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness for many, there are things that can be done.
Psychologists can seek to understand and address the barriers to education access at primary and secondary institutions of learning in order to contribute to dismantling discriminatory practices. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers several educational practice, advocacy, and research guidelines for psychologists to consider. Among them are:
- promoting cultural competencies of service providers
- education of potential and current educators about supports for ethnic and racial minorities
- combating stereotyping
- providing education about the impact of increasing the segregation of the educational experiences of ethnic and racial minority children
- promoting the allocation of resources for the provision of evidence-based, gap-closing instructional and learning strategies by educators
- examining the contributing factors resulting in the success of ethnic and racial minority students participating in beneficial academic programs (APA, 2012)
The impact of this decision may potentially have consequences for one’s mental health. Should this be the case for you, seek out support in your trusted social and community networks. Do not hesitate to reach out further for professional support if additional assistance is needed.
Ali, M. (2021). Educational disparities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Academic Advising Today, 44(2). Retrieved from Educational Disparities Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic (ksu.edu)
American Psychological Association, Presidential Task Force on Educational Disparities. (2012). Ethnic and racial disparities in education: Psychology’s contributions to understanding and reducing disparities. Retrieved from ￼http://www.apa.org/ed/resources/racial-disparities.aspx
Dorn, E., Hancock, B., Sarakatsannis, J., Viruleg, E., (2020). COVID 19 and learning loss – disparities grow and students need help. Retrieved from Mind the gap: COVID-19 is widening racial disparities in learning, so students need help and a chance to catch up.
Panzzanese, C. (2023). Havard united in resolve in face of Supreme Court’s admissions ruling. Retrieved from Harvard united in resolve in face of Supreme Court’s admissions ruling – Harvard Gazette
Quintana, S., & Mahgoub, L. (2016). Ethnic and racial disparities in education: Psychology's role in understanding and reducing disparities. Theory Into Practice, 55(2), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2016.1148985
Simon, C. (2021). How COVID taught America about inequity in education. Retrieved from How COVID taught America about inequity in education – Harvard Gazette
U.S. G.A.O (2018). Public High Schools with More Students in Poverty and Smaller Schools Provide Fewer Academic Offerings to Prepare for College. Retrieved from GAO-19-8, K-12 EDUCATION: Public High Schools with More Students in Poverty and Smaller Schools Provide Fewer Academic Offerings to Prepare for College
White A, Liburd LC, Coronado F. Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Among School-Aged Children: Are We Doing Enough? Prev Chronic Dis 2021;18:210084. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd18.210084