1. Impact of the Pandemic on Inequities Within the Academic Community
The extent to which the academic community reflects the inequities of society at large is well documented, by both analysis and lived experience. An article published in March 2021, for example, shows how, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, “after controlling for applicants’ educational background, country of origin, training, previous research awards, publication record, and employer characteristics, Black applicants remained 10% less likely than White applicants to be awarded National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding.”1 However, despite this disparate impact, the academic community has yet to respond meaningfully to address the personal and professional harm that continues.
The impact on underrepresented minority students in terms of mental health as well as expected graduation rates has also been documented.2 Enrollment losses have disproportionately affected students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The latest available data from the National Student Clearinghouse Enrollment Center show the dispropor-tionate impact of the pandemic on students attending different types of US academic institutions.3 Virtually all the overall 2.5% enrollment decline centered on public 2-year institutions (Exhibit 1), while 4-year colleges registered largely flat enrollment, and for-profit colleges grew substantially (after several years of decline, sometimes in double digits). It should be noted that flat enrollment is not a particularly impressive performance, since courseware publishers historically assumed that a 1% rise in the unemployment rate would drive up college enrollment by 3%. The spike in US unemployment was brutally fast (unemployment rose from 4.4% in March 2020 to 14.7% in April 2020) and then declined quite rapidly. However, by August 2020, the unemployment rate still stood at 8.4%, and the additional 4 percentage points should have translated into a 12% rise in college enrollment. Clearly, the pandemic was like no other recent economic crisis in many ways, including in how it reverberated across the student population.