New Hampshire’s education system struggles with inclusion

Hugo Balta

“When families of color visit campus, they do not readily see themselves represented across campus,” said Nadine Petty, chief diversity officer and associate vice president at UNH in an interview with the Concord Monitor.. “It’s hard to convince potential future students that UNH is for them if they don’t see anyone that shares their identity while they are here.”

A review of enrollment data from the five largest, four-year, undergraduate schools — Dartmouth College, Keene State College, Plymouth State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and the University of New Hampshire — shows some have struggled to move their numbers beyond where they were nearly 20 years before.

For example, Dartmouth College appears diverse by the numbers in regards to overall variety in race and ethnicity, outpacing national trends of increasing student diversity. In 2018, Dartmouth’s student population was 48.7% white, compared to national white enrollment of 55.2%.

Still, Hispanic-Latino students are underrepresented at Dartmouth. Hispanic-Latino students make up about 8.6% of Dartmouth’s population, compared to Hispanics-Latinos making up 20% of total college enrollment, according to the Concord Monitor.

The education inequity issue is a larger problem for younger students in the Granite State.

Recently released U.S. Census data shows for the first time, less than 90-percent of New Hampshire residents are white; in the past 10 years, the percentage of white residents has decreased from 94-percent to 87-percent.

“The most diverse part of the population is the youngest part of the population,” said UNH demographer Ken Johnson. New Hampshire remains one of the whitest states in the nation, but if the population continues to grow, it is minorities who will likely be driving that growth. 

The state’s population of minority children has grown by almost 50-percent or about 16,800 more children of color between 2010 and 2021. Now, minorities make up 20.2-percent of the population under 18. In Nashua and Manchester, that number is over 30 percent, reports the New Hampshire Bulletin.

Over the next few months, the Manchester Ink Link, and its partners will explore education and equity in a series of articles about New Hampshire’s education system as part of its race and equity reporting project.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Education, in 2020-21, about 91-percent of students were non-Hispanic white, while 2.5-percent were Hispanic or Latino.

The lack of diversity in a school or district can be isolating for some learners. In 2018-19, the New Hampshire Department of Education received 2,152 reports of bullying, of which 976 were investigated and determined to be “actual” cases of bullying. About 7.3 percent of those cases were based on a student’s race, color, or national origin, reported The Manchester Ink Link.

Advocates argue that the state’s funding system creates inequity, with local property taxpayers shouldering the burden of paying for schools.

“Students of color and low-income students tend to live in these property-poor communities. But then being in a property-poor community creates this economic inequity doom loop, where businesses don’t want to move to an area that doesn’t have good schools,” said New Hampshire School Funding Fairness Project Communications Manager Molly Murphy. “So they don’t get the tax revenue that they need for their schools, and it’s just a repeating cycle.”

Students from marginalized communities also miss opportunities in other ways, such as lost classroom time, as they are often subject to harsher discipline than their white peers. 

More recent federal data shows similar disparities — in 2017, nearly 33 percent of out-of-school suspensions in the Manchester School District were given to Hispanic or Latino students. However, that group made up only 23.5 percent of the enrollment.

The disparities in education are not exclusive to just the students. Though student populations are becoming more diverse, it’s unclear whether the same change is occurring among the workforce of educators guiding them. The state doesn’t publish annual data on the demographics of educators, but in 2011-2012, 97.8 percent of teachers in the state were non-Hispanic white, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

Publisher’s Note: This report is an aggregate from various news outlets covering education, race, and Census 2020.

Cover photo credit:  Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels