State Policies Greatly Impact Minority Access To Higher Education
The state you live in can make an unexpectedly large difference in determining whether you’ll be able to attend college — especially if you’re a minority student in a lower income bracket, according to the the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education’s Measuring Up 2000 report, which graded the states on their performance in higher education.
Dr. Philip Uri Treisman, director of the Texas-based Charles A. Dana Center, says that differences in state policies play a larger role than race and income in determining whether minorities, particularly those from lower income level backgrounds, have access to higher education.
The National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education’s report, which was released late last month, is based on quantitative measures of performances, evaluated every state, using A-F grades in five key areas:
n Preparation: How well are students prepared to take advantage of college?
n Participation: Do state residents enroll in college-level programs?
n Affordability: How affordable is higher education in the state?
n Completion: Do those who enroll complete their academic and vocational programs?
n Benefits: What economic and civic benefits does each state receive from the education of its residents?
Student learning was also evaluated, but because sufficient data was not available, all states received an “incomplete.”
Many states performed well in several areas, but no state received straight A’s in providing opportunities for education and training beyond high school, according to the report.
“Despite the accomplishments of American higher education, its benefits are unevenly and often unfairly distributed and do not reflect the distribution of talent in America,” says North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education. “Geography, wealth, income and ethnicity still play too great a role in determining the educational life chances of Americans.”
PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico, who is also on the board of the National Center, says his company can’t recruit enough African Americans and Hispanics because they are not coming out of higher education institutions in numbers comparable to that of other groups.
Having a special interest in the report’s conclusions, particularly as they affect minority students, was board member Dr. Dolores E. Cross, president of Morris Brown College, a historically Black college in Atlanta, who said the report had several implications for
“We’re concerned about a level playing field — before college,” Cross says. “This report ties access to equity. Are opportunities provided evenly? You have to link the pre-college experience to the in-college experience. If you want to have quality, you have to have a strong pre-college initiative.” Cross also discussed the fact that affordability is linked to college completion rates.
Dr. John Brooks Slaughter, president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Education and a board member of the center as well, called the report a “sterling piece of work.”
“It demystifies a number of issues,” Slaughter says. “. . . It provides the opportunity to stop blaming the victims. Minorities are victims of public policy in some cases. [The report] confirms what I’ve long believed, there is no excellence without equity.”
Secretary of Education Richard Riley said all states are raising standards in K-12, and he challenged every state to take the next step and “put a qualified teacher in every classroom” in order to prepare students for college. Riley added that every American should at least get two years of postsecondary education.
Nationwide, 52 percent of full-time freshmen at four-year colleges and universities earn a bachelor’s degree within five years. States range from a high of 68 percent (Vermont) to a low of 28 percent (Louisiana) on this measure.
The distribution of grades is not explainable by differences in income or ethnic representation in the states, according to the report. About 25 percent of the distribution of the grades is associated with factors like wealth and income. About 10 percent is associated with race and ethnicity.
Some people in attendance at the report’s release questioned the National Center’s panel on why there are tools to measure student learning prior to entering college, but no way to measure student learning once they leave. Some members of the panel agreed that there needs to be a tool to measure student learning upon college completion, calling it a “new issue” and saying the tools that do exist to measure student learning on the K-12 level may not be appropriate on the postsecondary level.
As Measuring Up 2000 was being completed, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that for the first time three countries — Britain, Norway and the Netherlands — have surpassed the United States in the proportion of young people who graduate from college.
“The surest way to second place is complacency,” says Thomas Tierney, director of Bain & Co. and a member of the National Center board. “Higher education is underperforming. [This report] can begin to provide benchmarks for performance improvements.”
Measuring Up 2000 will be updated in 2002 and 2004. For a complete copy of the report, visit www.highereducation.org
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