U.S. public master’s institutions (PMIs) face conflicting imperatives to strive for prestige while democratizing college access for racially minoritized students. By elevating the former over the latter, critics note, these campuses may emulate their world-class peers for legitimacy and resources. Consequently, the dominant perspective links prestige-seeking PMIs to exacerbating racial stratification in higher education. To examine the extent to which such inequality is worsening in the sector, our study focuses on how striving-related factors influence racial diversity at PMIs over time. Panel analyses here indicate selected organizational characteristics that suppress racial diversity; however, the relative magnitude of those statistical relationships casts doubt on assumptions of striving and stratification at the average PMI. These results accord with a flexible theory of PMIs and the organizational fields in which they position themselves. We discuss implications for research on PMIs’ and states’ efforts to connect racial diversity to improving equity and academic quality.
- Access and opportunity
- Diversity index
- Longitudinal analysis
- Neo-institutional theory
- Race/ethnicity and higher education