3 Education Issues That Need to Be Addressed on Top of Affirmative Action

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In 2008, the University of Texas-Austin rejected Abigail Fisher's college application. On Thursday, Fisher got rejected again — this time by the U.S. Supreme Court.

America's highest judicial body ruled 4-3 against the white 26-year-old, who spent the last eight years arguing, unsuccessfully, that UT's race-conscious admissions process was the reason she was turned down by the school and unconstitutional.

The ruling was a win for racial equity in education, as it allowed UT to keep using race as a factor when considering admissions. 

But as Fisher's academic mediocrity continues to dominate headlines — and discussions about college admissions continue to focus on white people whining that black and brown students are stealing their spots at America's colleges — it's important to remember that the plight of racial minorities in schools does not live and die with affirmative action.

Here are three issues in American education that are equally pressing:

1. Segregation

America's public schools are more racially segregated today than they were in 1968. 

The percentage of black students in the American South attending majority-white schools has dropped to pre-1968 levels; the rate plummeted from 44% in 1988 to 23.2% in 2011, according to a recent study by UCLA's Civil Rights Project. 

This amounts to almost total racial segregation in some areas. The worst offender is New York state, where 64.6% of black students attend schools that are 90-100% minority. 

Latino students face similar disparities out West; in California and Texas, over 50% attend schools that are 90-100% minority. In four Northeastern and Midwestern states, the majority of black students attend schools that are 90-100% minority. 

Why is this bad? Black and Latino students are far more likely to attend schools where the majority of students are poor. This has a direct correlation to school underfunding as well as lower pay and qualifications among teachers, which are all major predictors of lower achievement among students.

2. School discipline

You may have heard of the school-to-prison pipeline — low- or zero-tolerance disciplinary policies that push children out of schools and into the criminal justice system via suspensions and expulsions. These policies' impact on black children is especially damning.

A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found that black students accounted for 50% of public school K-12 suspensions and expulsions across 13 states in the South, despite making up 24% of students. At public schools in Boston and New York City, the problem is especially pronounced for black girls, who are six times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts, according to a report from the African American Policy Forum.

The Justice Policy Institute frames the problem quite simply:

"Especially for older students, trouble at school can lead to their first contact with the criminal justice system," researchers Libby Nelson & Dara Lind write. "And in many cases, schools themselves are the ones pushing students into the juvenile justice system — often by having students arrested at school."

In a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world — and a criminal-justice system that locks up black people at a disproportionate rate — this is a dilemma with staggering consequences.

A 2014 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research has some troubling news for black college graduates. The unemployment rate for black grads aged 22-27 hovered at 12.7%, which was twice the nationwide average of 5.6%, and three times what it was for black grads before the Recession hit in 2008, Mic previously reported.

3. Post-graduation debt and employment 

What's more, black students tend to get saddled with higher rates of undergraduate student debt than their white counterparts. The problem stems in part from differences in family wealth.

Even after enduring a racially discriminatory education system, a higher-ed degree costs more pays off less for black grads than others.