College success gap

Low-income and minority students lag in college enrollment and graduation at two- and four-year public colleges, concludes Charting a Necessary Path, an Education Trust report.

Two years ago, 24 public higher education systems educating 40 percent of four-year students pledged to halve the achievement gap in college access and completion by 2015. The report provides a baseline for the Access to Success Initiative.

The research found that about 45 percent of low-income and underrepresented minority students entering as freshmen in 1999 had earned bachelor’s degrees six years later at the colleges studied, compared with 57 percent of other students.

. . . The study found that fewer than one-third of all freshmen entering two-year institutions nationwide attained completion — either through a certificate, an associate’s degree or transfer to a four-year college — within four years. The success rate was lower, 24 percent, for underrepresented minorities and higher, 38 percent, for other students.

Only 7 percent of minority students who entered community colleges earned bachelor’s degrees within 10 years.

Measuring Success, Making Progress, a spiffy new California site, focuses on high school graduation, college readiness and college success. Despite the title, I saw little progress. Most students don’t take the college-prep sequence, don’t do well on the state’s optional college readiness exam and struggle to complete a degree.

The four-year graduation rate was 70.9 percent in 2008 with Asians the highest, whites next and black (58 percent) and Hispanic students (62 percent) far behind. Only 55 percent of seventh graders in five school districts received regular high school diplomas six years later.

Only 16 percent of 11th graders who took the college readiness exam were judged ready for college English; 13 percent were ready for college math. More will be ready after 12th grade, but most have a long way to go and presumably only kids with college aspirations take the exam. In math, the racial/ethnic disparities were huge: Almost one in five Asian/Pacific Islander students scored at a college-ready level, compared to one in 20 white students and about 1 percent of Hispanic and African American students.

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  1. This is a question of, “is the glass half empty or half full?”. I was pleasantly surprised to read that the gaps are as small as they are — 12 points for 4-year college completion and 14 points for 2-year college success. A generation or two ago, many of those low-income and minority young people were not even in college at all.


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