A third of first-year students experience bias, targeting

May 14, 2024
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A new survey of first-year college students found that a third of students reported feeling targeted or excluded based on their identities.

The survey of at least 12,000 students, fielded by the education consulting company EAB, found that some groups of students experienced these forms of prejudice at higher levels. More than half of nonbinary students, 51 percent, reported feeling targeted or excluded, as did 34 percent of Black students and a third of women.

More than a third of students reported seeing prejudiced behavior toward other students; about 13 percent reported witnessing bias against students based on race or ethnicity, while 10 percent reported witnessing bias based on religious or political identity. Notably, students were 19 percent more likely to report bias based on religious affiliation than in 2022.

Michael Koppenheffer, EAB’s vice president of Enroll360 marketing and analytics, said in a press release that the survey shows “troubling rates of bias and exclusion, even before the recent turmoil on college campuses.”

“We’ve seen growing evidence that today’s students are choosing colleges based on whether they feel like they’ll be supported and safe,” he said, “and university leaders should keep that in mind as they try to manage student activism this spring.”

While the majority of students reported they were satisfied with their college experience, those numbers varied based on race and ethnicity. For example, 86 percent of white students reported satisfaction with college compared to 79 percent of Black students. Among students overall, 84 percent were satisfied with their college experience.

Black students were more likely to see student support services, such as financial aid and career advising, as cause to feel satisfied with college compared to white students. A quarter of Black students cited these services as a driver of satisfaction, compared to 19 percent of white students. In contrast, white students reported a sense of belonging as a source of satisfaction at a higher rate than students of color—35 percent and 30 percent or less, respectively.

“Colleges need to understand the factors that influence student satisfaction and how those factors vary by race, ethnicity, and income,” Koppenheffer said. “Increased investment in student support services could go a long way toward addressing some of the disparities in the college experience.”



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