The Flagship Diversity Divide

The student bodies at large state universities are more diverse than the faculties. But the broader population outpaces them both.

Recent protests by student groups have drawn attention back to a broad and important question: How diverse are colleges, really?

Flagship institutions often find that question to be particularly pressing. Because of their public funding, there’s an expectation that their student bodies would resemble the demographics of the areas they serve. And increasingly, students want their faculties to be similarly diverse. But because professors are hired from a national pool, it’s also reasonable to expect that their faculties would represent not only the diversity of their states but of the nation as a whole.

There’s plenty of room for debate about what it means for a campus to be diverse. But we can gather some context by comparing each flagship’s student and faculty diversity with that of the state in which it is located — and with that of the nation overall.

To do that, we used a Diversity Index, which represents the probability that any two people chosen at random from a sample will be of different races or ethnicities. The index works on a scale of zero to 100. A score of zero means there’s no chance that those two people will be of different races; a score of 100 means it’s a guarantee that they will be.

The Chronicle has calculated the Diversity Index for every state’s flagship, counting racial and ethnic diversity among both students and full-time professors. Then we compared those scores with state-level numbers. (We used university data reported to the Department of Education for the 2013-14 academic year and state data gathered in the 2010 Census. For more details, see the footnote at the bottom of the page.)

There’s a diversity gap between students and faculties.

At most flagships, there is a significant disparity between the diversity of the student body and the diversity of the faculty. In fact, institutions with the greatest student diversity have the largest such gaps. Only eight institutions, or 16 percent, have a faculty more diverse than the student body.

Diverse states have more-diverse flagships.

Plot student and faculty diversity against state diversity, and you’ll see that flagships in more-diverse states have more-diverse students and faculty. That’s not surprising. However, across the board, the diversity of faculty tends to be far lower than the diversity of students.

The University of Hawaii-Manoa is the most diverse university in terms of students and faculty, with a student-body Diversity Index of 76 — a full 22 points greater than the index for the U.S. population as of 2010 — and a faculty index of 61. (When comparing people who report being of two or more races, the index considers them diverse by default. So it is not surprising that Hawaii, where close to a quarter of the residents identify themselves as being of two or more races, had a high score.)

Click the chart for flagship details

Student vs. State Diversity
Faculty vs. State Diversity

Many flagships have student bodies more diverse than their states.

Flagships are much better at creating student diversity on par with the state’s demographics than they are at creating faculty as diverse as the state. Thirty-eight of the flagships have a student Diversity Index equal to or greater than that of their state. But only twenty-one of the universities have a faculty Diversity Index that matches or surpasses that of the state.


Diversity Index
Difference from State Diversity

Hover over bars for flagship detailsTap bars for flagship details

Flagship diversity falters when compared with the nation.

The national Diversity Index in 2010 was 54. So how many flagships meet that threshold? As it turns out, 18 flagships have a student diversity that meets or exceeds that level, while only two, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and University of Hawaii-Manoa, have faculty that diverse.


Diversity Index
Difference from National Diversity

Hover over bars for flagship detailsTap bars for flagship details

Since student bodies turn over every few years, while faculty tend to keep their jobs for decades, it’s not surprising that progress on making faculty more diverse has been slow. Nevertheless, targeted efforts have shown what can happen when diversifying faculty becomes a priority. And with nonwhite Americans expected to become a majority within 30 years, pressure to remake faculty more like the nation will only increase.

For student and faculty demographics, data are from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System(IPEDS) and are for the 2013-14 academic year. State and national demographics are from the 2010 Federal Census.

Due to methodological differences between IPEDS and the Census, we used two different equations to calculate the Diversity Index. IPEDS treats Hispanics as a racial group that is mutually exclusive (if a person who identifies as Hispanic can’t identify as anything else), whereas the Census treats Hispanics as an ethnic group (so a person can be black and Hispanic).

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