The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

ACE Report Provides Perspective on Diversity in Higher Education

Using data from CUPA-HR and other sources, a comprehensive report on race and ethnicity in higher education from the American Council on Education (ACE) paints a picture of an ever-diversifying student body, but a mostly White higher ed workforce.

In the report, ACE notes that over the past two decades, the non-White share of undergraduates in U.S. colleges and universities grew from roughly 30 percent to 45 percent. Yet, as CUPA-HR has reported in its research findings, university administrators, professionals and faculty remain predominantly White (and predominantly male in the faculty workforce and in higher-paying, more prestigious administrator roles). In fact, ACE, in its 2017 American College President Study, found that in 2016, 83 percent of college and university presidents were White (58 percent were White men).

ACE Findings on the Diversity of the Higher Ed Workforce

Drawing on data from CUPA-HR, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), ACE’s own studies and other sources, the report makes the following observations about the faculty, staff and administrators students are encountering on campus (all data are from 2016 or 2017):


  • Nearly three-quarters of all full-time faculty are White.
  • Among full-time faculty across all types of institutions, larger shares of White and Asian faculty than of other groups are full professors. A larger share of American Indian or Alaska Native faculty, Hispanic faculty, Black faculty and faculty of more than one race are instructors, lecturers and faculty with no academic rank than other groups.
  • Overall, a larger share of White full-time faculty at private four-year institutions have tenure compared with Hispanic and Black full-time faculty.
  • Seventy percent of the more than 345,000 full-time faculty at public four-year institutions are White.
  • Among full-time faculty at public two-year institutions, about seven in 10 American Indian or Alaska Native and Hispanic faculty were instructors, lecturers and faculty with no academic rank.


  • Among college and university professional staff, more than one in four student affairs professionals and slightly more than one in five academic affairs professionals identify as people of color (see the CUPA-HR blog post, Students Affairs: Ahead of the Curve on Workforce Diversity and Pay Equity for some findings around the students affairs workforce).
  • External affairs professionals (e.g., advancement services and alumni relations) are the least racially and ethnically diverse, with 88.3 percent White individuals in this role.


  • The majority of individuals in staff positions are White. However, there is greater racial and ethnic variation across staff positions than administrative or professional positions on campus.
  • The largest group of staff on campus is office and clerical staff (e.g., administrative assistants and records clerks), and roughly one-quarter of these staff identify as people of color.
  • About 42 percent of service and maintenance staff (e.g., construction and facilities) identified as people of color.


  • The majority of individuals in administrative positions on college campuses are White.
  • The areas with the highest percentage of White individuals in chief administrative roles are development (94 percent of chief development officers are White), facilities (92 percent of chief facilities officers are White) and athletics (90 percent of chief athletics administrators are White).
  • Women represent only 30 percent of all college and university presidents. Women of color represent only 5 percent of all college and university presidents, while men of color represent just 12 percent.

The data outlined in ACE’s report clearly indicates that the higher ed student body is diversifying at a record pace and will continue to do so. In order to help ensure continued student success, it’s imperative that the higher ed workforce do the same.

Read the full ACE report, Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education.

Where is your institution in its diversity, equity and inclusion journey? Use CUPA-HR’s new DEI Maturity Index to measure the progress of DEI efforts around staff and faculty on your campus, and then begin to move from simply talking about the issues to creating change.

Additional Resources and Readings:
Underpaid and Underrepresented: Women of Color on the Higher Ed Workforce
A Look at Female Faculty in Higher Education
CUPA-HR’s Research Publications