Demystifying Conventional Assumptions: Do African American Parents Anticipate Investing Less toward Their Children’s College Costs than Their White Peers?

    Vol. 40, No. 2, 2010 p.5 

    by Abebayehu Aemero Tekleselassie

    Some researchers and theorists tend to portray African American parents as lacking the cultural know-how to provide a supportive home environment that enhances college access and success for their children. Since contribution toward college costs is one tangible means by which researchers gauge parents’ commitment toward their children’s education, this study draws data from the National Longitudinal Study (NELS: 1988/2000) and examines how the amount and source of funding parents anticipate toward college costs differs between African Americans and Whites. Results indicate that while racial differences in anticipated college funding appear to favor Whites, who aggregately expect to contribute more than their African American peers, these differences disappear after families' socioeconomic status is taken into account. Findings about college funding sources anticipated by the two racial groups are even more effective in demystifying existing stereotypes. Irrespective of socioeconomic status, the study shows that African American parents anticipate borrowing or using relatives’ contributions while White parents expect to draw on their savings or children’s earnings. The study concludes that the presumptions that African American parents are less committed to meeting their children's educational costs are not only misleading, but are also deterrent to the pursuit of appropriate policy options that may redress existing inequalities in college funding between the two racial groups.