3 Initiatives Designed to Help Minorities Succeed in College

It seems that graduating from high school is no longer the end goal of P-12 learning – earning a college degree has replaced it. By 2018, 60 percent of jobs will require a college degree. On Monday, I wrote about the nationwide average high school graduation rate being 80 percent – which is admirable but also means that at least 1 in 5 kids won’t make it to college classes. When you factor in the high school graduates that bypass college completely, it seems that at some point America’s workforce will simply not be able to meet the demands of its employers. When it comes to minorities who graduate high school and are ready for the rigor of college coursework, numbers are bleak.

A new report from the College of Education at the University of Arizona found that less than 1 in 10 minority high school graduates in the state are adequately prepared for college. Non-minority students are not much better off though, with only 2 in 10 prepared for college after graduating from high school. A rise over the past 15 years in minority students in elementary and high school in state, as well as economic disparities between students of color and their white peers, are cited in the study as drivers behind the high school graduation-college readiness gap.

There are several methods that have been proposed to help minorities have better access to education. Here are just three of them.

  1. College scorecards and higher affordability. In 2014, Obama proposed the implementation of a rating system that would provide the general public with greater details about the total cost, graduation rates and alumni earnings of individual colleges and universities.

The program has since been nixed thanks to opposition from lawmakers and university heads, but the idea was that students choosing schools with higher ratings would have more access to Pell Grants and affordable loan programs. The plan was twofold in nature – first, getting more useful information into the hands of consumers and second, providing better affordability for young people who seek out higher education.

The rising cost of a college degree has been a concern of the Obama administration throughout both terms in the White House. College graduates in 2010 left their schools with an average of $26,000 in debt, leading to higher student loan debt in America than credit card debt. In order to reach his goal of leading the world in percentage of college graduates by 2020, Obama has been vocal about lowering the cost of the college process and providing more targeted, useful programs that address the needs of the economy.

This new “college scorecard” proposal was meant to one more step in that direction. Like public K-12 schools, colleges would be held more accountable by the federal government and would be compared to each other through data that truly matters.

Numerous publications claim to have the perfect formula in place for ranking the “best colleges and universities” based on a variety of factors but none are officially sanctioned by the government. The President’s ranking plan would avoid the fluff of other rating systems and address the core of educational matters: cost, graduation success and chances for achievement in the career that follows. These are the real stats that all students, whether recent high school graduates or those returning to campus for the first time in a few decades, need to make informed decisions.

In terms of minority students, the college ranking plan would have been beneficial. Though minority college student numbers are rising, 61 percent of college students in 2010 were considered Caucasian in comparison to just 14 percent Black students, 13 percent Hispanic students and 6 percent Asian or Pacific Islander students. Based on these statistics alone, minority students are at a disadvantage when it comes to attending and graduating from college. Every student situation is different but the cost of college and accompanying loan interest rates certainly play into the unbalanced collective college population.

This idea will not be implemented, but it’s still easy to see how a rankings system that effectively provides more grant money and more affordable loan options to students will make the dream of a college education a reality to more minorities. As more first-generation minorities attend colleges, choosing schools with high graduation rates (many of which likely have strong guidance policies in place) and good job placement will mean more career successes.

  1. Online class offerings. Each year online learning initiatives become less of a fringe movement and more of an incorporated, and accepted, form of education. More than 6.7 million people took at least one online class in the fall of 2011 and 32 percent of college students now take at least one online course during their matriculation. It is even becoming commonplace for high schools to require all students to take an online class before graduation as a way to prep them for the “real world” of secondary education.

The flexibility and convenience of online learning is well known but what is not as readily talked about is the way distance education promotes diversity of the college population. With less red tape than the traditional college format, online students are able to earn credits while still working full time, maintaining families and dealing with illnesses. Whether students take just one course remotely, or obtain an entire degree, they are able to take on the demands of college life more readily – leading to student population with more variety.

The Babson Survey Research Group recently revealed that while online college student enrollment is on the rise, traditional colleges and universities saw their first drop in enrollment in the ten years the survey has been conducted. This drop is small – less than a tenth of one percent – but its significance is big. A trend toward the educational equality of online curriculum is being realized by students, institutions and employers across the board. The benefits of a college education through quality online initiatives are now becoming more accessible to students that simply cannot commit to the constraints of a traditional campus setting.

  1. Free community college. During his sixth State of the Union address, President Barack Obama spelled out a proposal that would offer two years of community college for free to any student that wanted to take advantage of it. Once enrolled, these students would need to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average, stay enrolled at least half time and be on track to graduate on time to keep receiving the tuition-free access.

This program would, essentially, make the first two years of a college education a basic American right – aligning it with universal access to a K-12 (and even pre-K in some states) education. Of course there would be some requirements for having access to that right and it would not be mandatory, but the basic premise would be the same: free higher education for any American student.

Arguably this plan helps everyone in the long run. More Americans with access to a college education means a stronger economy and less college debt means more money in the pockets of college graduates that they can then pump back into that economy. Proponents of the plan say that it will particularly help minorities when it comes to college attendance because it removes the cost barrier that tends to discourage these groups from enrolling.

What do you think are some other initiatives that will help make more individuals from minority groups ready for college?

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

2 Replies to “3 Initiatives Designed to Help Minorities Succeed in College”

  1. Regarding community college access another point needs to be addressed the disparity between community colleges in wealthier areas vs. poor areas. It would not be fair to have time limits in community college that are overly enrolled because of physical and economic limitations of course offerings and class size. Funding from federal government should be used to level the playing field of community colleges because commonly minorities attend these institutions in poor counties or communities.

  2. New initiatives help ethnic minorities to easily access and lift themselves out of poverty. The flexibility and convenience of online learning how distance education fosters the diversity of the university population. Online students can earn credits while still working full-time, maintaining a family, and coping with illness. Being able to earn a full degree, they can meet the demands of university life more easily.

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