Minding the minority education gap

Unless the K-12 achievement gap narrows, it’s unlikely that many more blacks and Hispanics will earn four-year college degrees, writes Emily Badger on Miller-McCune.  There is potential for “middle-skill jobs” that require two-year degrees or certificates.

Only 15 percent of Hispanics and blacks, a growing percentage of the workforce, hold a four-year degree, compared to 32 percent of Asians and whites. 

A high school diploma isn’t enough for workers and a four-year degree is unrealistic for many, says Alan Berube, who contributed to a new Brookings Institution report, the “State of Metropolitan America.”

“Rather than think we have to move everybody who doesn’t have a four-year degree over that bar,” he said, “we could work on the availability and opportunity for what people call these middle-skill jobs that demand a certification or an associate’s degree.”

. . . Berube suggests we should also invest more heavily in the higher-education institutions most capable of reaching minority students: not just historically black colleges, but community colleges as well.

Only 10 percent of Hispanic drop-outs go on to earn a GED, half the rate of blacks and one third the rate of whites, reports the Pew Hispanic Center. Hispanics also are less likely to complete high school: 41 percent of Hispanic adults lack a regular high school diploma, compared with 23 percent of blacks and 14 percent of whites.

Those figures include immigrants who may not have attended U.S. schools and don’t understand the need for a GED or how to earn one, Pew’s Richard Fry tells AP.  “The longer foreign-born Latinos without a high school degree are in the United States, the more likely they are to earn a GED.” However, only 21 percent of U.S. born Hispanic drop-outs earn a GED, a rate similar to blacks. 

Four in 10 students with a GED pursue additional education, compared to only 1 in 10 of those without an alternative degree. Students with a GED are also able to apply and enroll in degree-granting colleges and universities.

The high drop-out rate and the low GED completion rate keep a sizeable number of Hispanics on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.