Steffanie Rivers

*Ever since I had that bad experience with a stalker some fifteen years ago I’ve learned to pay less attention to the obvious, because oftentimes it’s what is not stated that is most important.

Take for example the recently revised study that concluded (among other findings) African and Latino students fared better in the job market if they graduated from a predominantly white college instead of a historically black university.

The reason given in the study was that prospective (and presumptively white) employers are more likely to hire minorities who graduate from an elite (read white) college or university.This part was indeed stated. But what was not stated is what concerns me most.

This is not the first time the authors of this study have promoted the importance of assimilation for African and Latino students. While the study concludes that minority students make more money upon graduation from an elite college, it makes no mention of the financial sink hole oftentimes they put themselves in just to be in that atmosphere.  Also the study didn’t discuss how lucrative it would be for those elite universities to have tens of thousands of more students vying for their acceptance, another justification for raising the already too expensive cost of tuition there.

In addition to those omissions, of the twenty-seven colleges and unversities used in the study I saw only two HBCUs included. That in and of itself speaks to the invalidity of the data.

When they plant the seed of inferiority in the minds of the tens of thousands of minority students who plan to attend college, the message will trickle down to the rest and infect the masses. When they spread the message that HBCU graduates are likely to make less money when they graduate because HBCUs don’t carry the prestige that an elite college does, most people won’t argue the point. They will just accept it.  But before you accept the message as fact, consider this:

More important than what the study shows is who did the study and why? Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger, the two economists responsible for the research, were paid by the Mellon Foundation to conduct the study. That fact was stated on the first page of the study, making it less important than their political ties and why they might have done the study in the first place. Dale and Krueger have extensive experience creating political policy, something they did for pay. Why is that important?

Krueger, a professor at Princeton University, is a former U.S. assistant treasury secretary for economic policy – a paid position, no doubt. Elite college professors moonlighting as political policy mentors were responsible for “research” that (1) functioned as a funnel for talent to Wall Street in the 90’s and 00’s. Some of those elite professors got jobs on Capitol Hill too. The one’s who didn’t get promotions were paid tens of thousands of dollars by various foundations just to produce pre-determined results.These paid elite college professors-turned-Capitol Hill-advisors are – in part – responsible for Congress pushing deregulation legislation that led to the economic meltdown that crumbled banks, dissolved millions of jobs and caused many people to default on their home mortgages. And they expect us to accept what they say as truth and nothing but the truth? I don’t think so.

One part of the study said that it’s better to apply for admission to an elite university and be rejected than to have never applied at all because, according to them, it proves you are more confident and ambitious. What they didn’t say, but is even more important, is: Wanting acceptance by an individual or group of people who don’t want you, can’t relate to your life experience and could care less about your well being is the foundation for poor self-esteem, unfulfilled self actualization and all those other terms that simply mean you care more about what others think of you than what you think of yourself.

While I acknowlege that we are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial society that accomplishes more when we work together regardless of our differences, I realize that HBCU’s, single gender, faith-based colleges and other institutions of the kind exist for a reason. That reason is to help people in transition from childhood to adulthood to develop their strengths and learn their purpose without the worry of assimilation before they are thrown to the proverbial wolves called real life. Regardless of how much money you earn if you don’t know your purpose or have a solid foundation of who you are and what you have to offer to the world (revelations that oftentimes come during the college years), the elite and money always will define you instead of you defining yourself.

In case you’re wondering, I earned a master’s degree from the elite American University in Washington, D.C. and a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University in Nashville, a HBCU.

But after all the time spent, paper wasted and checks cashed on this so-called research, Krueger summerized the study by saying it’s more important that one gets a college eduction regardless of where one attends because ultimately it’s a person’s motivation, ambition and talents that determine success more than the name of the university on a sheepskin.

So after planting seeds of doubt in the minds of many telling them how their HBCU education will serve them less than matriculation at an elite unversity, Krueger pulls the ultimate mind game essentially by telling us “nevermind, you should be okay anyway.” If that’s really how he felt why go through the trouble of doing the study in the first place? It must be the money. I rest my case.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at