Study Projects More High-School Graduates, Greater Diversity
A new study released last month by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) projects more than 3.2 million high-school students will graduate in 2008-2009. In addition, by the class of 2014, minority enrollments will surge by 43 percent in 11 states and in the District of Columbia.
In the sixth edition of “Knocking at the College Door,” in collaboration with ACT and the College Board, researchers point to a number of factors that will affect education at all levels. And for the first time, researchers include data on student family income, in addition to race and ethnicity.
“In today’s economy, a person with a high-school degree can earn only half of what a person with a college degree has,” said Richard Sawyer, assistant vice president at ACT. “Our research says that 1 in 4 students are prepared enough to get into college, 28 percent of freshmen students are enrolled in remedial education, and there is an urgent need to prepare low-income and minority students better for college.”
According to David A. Longanecker, the executive director of WICHE, the “‘a-ha’ is in the shift in minority enrollment.” With the rapid increase in the Hispanic population, Hispanic enrollment will exceed Black enrollment in the South. However, Blacks will remain dominant in the Midwest and the Northeast. Overall, the West will see the most growth with a 15.8 percent increase in high-school graduates than it had in 2001-2002.
“We received data from the U.S. Census Bureau in international migration and looked at birth patterns by state over the past 10 years,” said project director Cheryl Blanco. “And we saw that people are going to the South and West from other countries, and the increase in minority enrollments from children who were born over the last decade.”
The increase in the number of graduates will put pressure on both community colleges and state universities. Blanco said there were already “scary trends” with several universities in Washington, Nevada and California enforcing transfer caps and reducing many students’ chances of completing a bachelor’s degree. “Community colleges are flexible to deal with students … but one can’t expect them to take on the full burden,” Blanco said.
Howard T. Everson, vice president for academic initiatives at the College Board, said the important message from the report was that “one size doesn’t fit all.” As each state copes with its own growth and decline of graduating students, affirmative action programs would become more significant in a diverse society. In 2014, the study says only half of the graduating students are projected to be White and non-Hispanic. Hispanics will represent one-fifth of the class while Black and non-Hispanic numbers will remain the same.
Even as states cut spending on education and people struggle with the diversity of population, “policy-makers want to see everyone graduate,” Blanco said, “and affirmative action programs will become important in the current economy.”
“The data we’ve gathered … should be a wake-up call, urging us to look closely at what we’re doing well and where we need to do much better in terms of retaining and graduating our young people,” Longanecker said.
— By Shilpa Banerji
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