"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken man." - Frederick Douglass

When in Rome, Go to College? (Racial Discrepancies Impact Study Abroad)


College is a simple word. It holds power in dictating how someones’ future ought to be shaped. It is also a word that will either encourage people of all age, gender, race, and socioeconomic backgrounds to attend; and without triggering the “fight or flight” phenomenon, it can be the best choice or the most upsetting.

Parents and peers may provide influential advice on why one should go, and the answer usually goes something similar to “Have the best time of your life!;” “Become the first generation college student!;” or “it’s best to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s here!” However, what happens if the mere exposure of social class discrepancies deprive underrepresented people to continue schooling? Only then, does it become a social barrier, but to perpetuate this horrendous thought factor sets up failed dreams and shattered hope. Yet, the rigid pressure of attending college still stands among those same underprivileged people… “When in Rome, Go to College.”

In July of 2019, database analytic and journalist, Mike Maciag published an article titled “White Communities, Black Students: Counties With the Biggest School Race Gap.” The title itself already presets the harsh reality of the database: excluded inclusivity among school districts.

Maciag input a crucial aspect regarding why white students are less represented in public school (even within their community), but Hispanics and blacks are over-represented. “One major factor is the size of private school enrollment, which strongly correlates with demographic discrepancies.” Furthermore, he explains “Charter schools also have greater racial discrepancies than traditional public schools, with a disproportionately high black enrollment compared to neighborhood population…” As Maciag continued to unfold more statistical studies, it all revealed one key point: affluent (typically white) families are able to afford better education for their children.

Presumably, the majority of these types of students are already ahead of the race, therefore heightening the predisposition to racial difference even more when it comes to college enrollment. So, where does this leave the remaining students within the competition?

An interview by Scott Jaschik, with authors Barrett J. Taylor and Brendan Cantwell, revealed inequities among students and institutions, highlighted in “Unequal Higher Education: Wealth, Status and Student Opportunity.” Jaschik asked the authors how can colleges of low-income students receive more attention and money among their institutions. In response, the authors replied rather frankly, “The conventional answer is for all of us, those in higher education and the industry media, to end our obsession with exclusive private and public flagships, and to start highlighting the contributions of other institutional types.” To provide a strategic layout in resolving this common issue, the authors make one assuring claim “…what really matters is breaking the cycle of competition.”

Originally, the intent of this article was to provide constructive insights regarding studying abroad. After recognizing such a topic would only apply to students granted higher education much quicker, it would lack a diverse range of plausible and resourceful features. Consequently, studying out of the country will not reinforce successful career choices of all deserving students if it is not within their radar (according to nafsa.org, between 2016-2017,  minority students are still underrepresented in study abroad. With Hispanics/Latino American and African American/Black being under 10.5 percent  and Caucasian being at 70.8 percent of enrollment).

In preparation of writing this article, supervisor of Frackle Media Group, DiMarko Chandler asked why should it matter to the city of Chicago (more specifically, the underprivileged areas) to share the benefits of studying abroad? In what way could this impact them? It is easy to stem from personal experiences and share all kinds of intriguing stories with no convincing purpose in actually doing so.

Educator David J. Smith mentioned a notable quote from Mark Twain in “The Innocents Abroad” when he wrote about how studying internationally could unlock career success. Applying to nearly every study abroad college student, the quote states, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

In the end, if it is becoming a necessity to shake one’s comfort zone by just traveling alone and the educational qualities are implemented, what valuable motive shall come from international studies if the opportunity is deprived from certain social class groups?

Written by Jakiria M. Williams. Edited by Kimberley Spinney.


Governing: White Communities, Black Students: Counties With the Biggest School Race Gap.

Inside Higher Ed: Unequal Higher Education.

NAFSA: Trends in U.S. Study Abroad.

Forbes: Why Studying Abroad Could Be The Key to Career Success.

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jeffrey Smith – Creative Commons License

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