Thursday, January 30, 2003

Chronicle colloquy 

Shoot! I missed this colloquy with Stephen Cole, whose forthcoming book Increasing Faculty Diversity: The Occupational Choices of High-Achieving Minority Students (Harvard University Press), has been written up in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education. (You need a subscription for the Chron article until it hits their archives.) In the colloquy Cole mentions a good paper by Dale and Krueger (I've linked to the non-technical summary; from there you can get the paper if you subscribe to NBER or wish to pay for it), that shows that getting into a selective school doesn't help you attain higher income. "Motivation, ambition and desire to learn have a much stronger effect on their subsequent success than the average academic ability of their classmates." Cole and Barber find that, according to the intro to the colloquy, "the pool of potential minority professors is too small -- in part because of affirmative action. The use of affirmative action in undergraduate admissions allows black, Hispanic, and American Indian students to enroll in colleges where they are not likely to excel, and most of these students do not earn the kinds of grades that could lead to earning Ph.D.'s at top universities." The discussion is pointed but Cole does a good and careful job presenting his answers. What he suggests is that if you want more minority faculty, you need to find a way to make minority students more successful generally in classes -- not something we have much ability to help once they get here -- and to encourage them into the higher ed profession at greater rates than whites. I'm not altogether sold on why that would be a good thing, since it ignores what may be the student's comparative advantage. But certainly role models mattered in getting most of us into higher ed. And, notably, Cole and Barber do not find that the race or gender of the role model mattered in getting minority students to enter the higher ed profession.

UPDATE: Kimberly Swygert has more (need to scroll down to "How important is an elite education?")