While whites are skeptical about a college degree’s value, Latinos and blacks believe higher education is essential, writes Ronald Brownstein. The divergence shows up in a new College Board/National Journal Next America Poll.
Jason Parkinson, a 29-year-old electrician from Cleveland, doesn’t consider it much of a handicap that he never obtained a four-year college degree after high school. “It doesn’t do any good anymore,” he says. “You get a four-year degree, you work at a fast-food restaurant. You can go to trades and manufacturing…. I’m not big on going to college for a career that might not even be there in 10 years.”
Jose Stathas, a 47-year-old assistant to the owner at a pottery company in Buena Park, Calif., didn’t finish college either, but he believes he would be better off if he had. “I don’t have a four-year degree, and I’ve learned the hard way that it can affect how much you make,” he says. “It gives you opportunities to get jobs in the competitive marketplace we have now.”
Parkinson is white. Stathas is Hispanic.
“While minorities worry more than whites about affording the cost of higher education, they are more likely to see a payoff from the investment,” writes Brownstein.
Most Latinos, blacks and Asian-Americans said “young people today need a four-year college degree in order to be successful.” Slightly fewer than half of whites agreed.
Minorities were also far more likely than whites to say the economy would benefit if the United States meets President Obama’s goal of increasing by half the share of Americans with postsecondary degrees through 2020. “The higher the education mark, the more competitive we’re going to be in the world economy,” Stathas said. “There’s a lot of talk of the rise and fall of the U.S. Unless we step it up a notch, there are going to be parts of the world that eat our lunch.”
Minorities are more likely than whites to support spending more to improve the availability and affordability of higher education. ”Whites and Asians were far more likely than Hispanics and African-Americans to argue that the best way to control mounting student-loan debt is for colleges to hold down costs, rather than for government to provide greater financial assistance,” Brownstein reports.
Student loan debt burdens 19.6 percent of adults, according to Forever in Your Debt: Who Has Student Loan Debt, and Who’s Worried?, a new study from the Urban Institute’s Opportunity and Ownership Project. Fifty-seven percent of people with student loans are worried they’ll be unable to repay their debts.
Nine percent of people with no more than a high school diploma have such debt, possibly incurred for non-degree training or to fund a child’s education. Twenty-five percent of those with some college experience but no degree have student loans, while 30 percent of college grads and 28 percent of those with advanced degrees contend with student debt.
While 16 percent of whites and 19 percent of Asians have student loan debt, 34 percent of blacks and 28 percent of Hispanics do so.
Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to enroll in high-cost for-profit colleges. They’re also more likely to quit college without earning a degree.
Seventy-two percent of low-income debtors worry about repayment, but so do 36 percent of those earning more than $100,000.
Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has rejected a bipartisan proposal to tie Stafford loan interest rates to financial markets. If no deal is reached, interest rates on the subsidized loans will go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. “The deal would avert a costly rate hike for now but could spell higher rates in coming years,” reports the Washington Post.
The study measured students’ performance on the California Standards Test as high school juniors against their first year community college performance in four areas: the portion of the classes they took that transferable to the California State University system; the portion of remedial classes taken; and their grades in both types. In dramatically unsurprising findings. . . the authors found that students with the best scores on the CST had higher grades their first year in community college and were enrolled in fewer remedial classes.
One finding was surprising: “Regardless of their academic achievements in high school, Asian and white students consistently enroll in more transferable courses than their Latino and black counterparts do,” the study found. Whites and Asians in the bottom 25% of CST performance enroll in more transferable courses that blacks and Hispanics in the top 25%.
Latinos and blacks may have attended high schools with lower academic standards, start with less “college knowledge” and be sidelined by placement tests with cultural biases, Michal Kurlaender, an associate professor at the University of California at Davis’s School of Education, told Inside Higher Ed.
Community college presidents average $167,000 in base pay, but blacks and Hispanics earn more, according to an American Association of Community Colleges survey. The median total compensation, which includes base salary plus other pay for fulfilling presidential duties, was $177,462.
That compares to $421,395 for public four-year college presidents in 2010-11, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. For four-year private-college presidents, the median total compensation was $385,909 in 2009.
Hispanic presidents reported the highest median base salary of any ethnic group, at $201,553, the study found. Black presidents had a median base salary of $190,000, and white presidents had a median base salary of $167,200.
. . . black and Hispanic presidents were more likely than their white counterparts to work at large colleges and in urban areas, and both factors are associated with institutions that pay higher salaries.
Female leaders of community colleges reported a median base salary of $170,000, slightly higher than male presidents, but men took a slight lead in total cash compensation.
Most presidents receive additional compensation.
Sixty-six percent said they received a college-provided car or car allowance, 58 percent said they received allowances for professional club dues, and 32 percent said they received college-provided housing or a housing allowance. Only 15 percent reported that their spouse or partner also received allowances.
Some 75 percent of community-college presidents plan to retire in the next 10 years.
Texas students who completed even a single college class in high school were significantly more likely to attend college and eventually graduate compared to similar students who weren’t in dual enrollment programs, reports Jobs for the Future in Taking College Courses in High School: A Strategy for College Readiness.
Dual enrollment students were more than twice as likely to enroll in a Texas two- or four-year college: 54.2% of dual enrollment graduates earned a college degree, compared to 36.9% of non-DE grads, and 47.2% of DE graduates earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30.2% of non-DE grads.
All groups did better, including students from low-income families and black and Hispanic students.
“A big question in education reform has been: ‘How do we increase the college readiness of those most likely not to go?’” said Joel Vargas, report coauthor and vice president of JFF’s High School Through College team. “Dual enrollment is a strategy states can use to help answer that question.”
The report also urged policymakers to support bearly college high schools that target minorities and low-income students. Texas has 49 early colleges, serving over 10,000 students statewide, and more than 90,000 students in dual enrollment.
Hispanics’ college enrollment is surging, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Forty-six percent of Hispanic high school graduates 18 to 24 years old enrolled in college — usually community college. That equals black enrollment and is closing in on young whites at 51 percent. Asian-Americans, with 67 percent in college, lead the pack.
Hispanic students also are much more likely to complete high school.
In the 1990s, fewer than 60 percent of Hispanics 18 to 24 had a high school diploma, but that figure hit 70 percent for the first time in 2009, and 76 percent last year.
That high school completion rate, however, still remains below the national rate of 85 percent (81 percent for blacks), limiting the number of Hispanics who are eligible for college.
Hispanics make up about 16.5 percent of all college students, but 25.2 percent of community college students. Graduation rates are low: In 2010, Hispanics made up 13.2 percent of those earning an associate degree and 8.5 percent of those earning a bachelor’s degree.
A U.S. Education Department analysis on the relationship between race and repayment of student loans left out black students, skewing results used to justify the gainful employment rule, reports Inside Higher Ed.
For-profit colleges, which enroll many minority, low-income and older students, argue the high-risk demographics explain their students’ higher default rates on student loans. Not so, said the department in June, concluding that only 1 percent of the variance in repayment rates could be explained by the racial composition of enrollment. Sorry, never mind.
But by failing to count black students, the study understated the impact of race: the actual variance at for-profits is 20 percent over all, and 31 percent for four-year institutions, the department said in the December filing.
Eduardo Ochoa, the department’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education, said “accurate figures would have had no impact on the final regulations.”
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the for-profit trade group challenging the gainful employment rules, charges the new figures show that “schools that enroll a higher percentage of minority students are more likely to fail the department’s repayment test.”
President Obama talked about defunding colleges that raise tuition in his State of the Union speech, writes Andrew Kelly on the Enterprise Blog. That means shifting “some Federal aid away from colleges that don’t keep net tuition down and provide good value,” according to a White House blueprint (pdf). Deciding whether a college is providing value for the money will require collecting gainful employment data on all higher education sectors, writes Kelly.
Math teachers at my daughter’s old high school oppose a plan to require all students to pass college-prep classes required for admission to California universities, known as A-G courses. They say some Palo Alto High students — disproportionately black, Hispanic and disabled — can’t pass the school’s demanding Algebra II class, which requires more than the UC/CSU standard. Water it down to the minimal level and students will end up in remedial math in college, the teachers warn.
The department chair, Radu Toma, wrote the letter (posted on wecandobetterpaloalto.org), which is signed by his colleagues. He taught my daughter Geometry in ninth grade and AP Calculus in 12th grade. Her Algebra II and pre-calc teachers signed too.
The math teachers are snobs who only want to teach advanced classes, argues LaToya Baldwin Clark in the Palo Alto Weekly. Require A-G for graduation, she writes, and create an easier Algebra II class for average students who don’t have parents who can tutor them — or pay for tutoring.
By the department’s own admission, even the regular lane Algebra II class greatly exceeds the UC/CSU. In the view of Toma and his colleagues, “diluting the standards in our regular lane to basic benchmarks which might allow every student to pass Algebra II would end up hurting the district’s reputation.” The department refuses to teach an Algebra II that satisfies UC/CSU requirements that students can actually pass. And where does the Paly math department think those students who fail to complete Algebra II should go, rather than to college? They can “go on to community colleges or jobs for which district prepares them better than most districts.”
The reputation of a high school is enhanced when all students go to four-year colleges.
Last year, 85 percent of all high school graduates in the district met the UC/CSU requirements. But only 5 percent of special-ed students, 15 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanic graduates were eligible for state universities.
Many of the black and Hispanic students have transferred from neighboring East Palo Alto, a low-income and working-class town, under a desegregation agreement. Many of the Palo Alto students are the children of very well-educated parents who work in high-tech or at Stanford. There’s no question that Palo Alto’s two high schools are designed to prepare students for very competitive colleges and universities.
The local community college, Foothill, is one of the best in the state. But graduation rates are low for community college students. Starting at a four-year university — San Jose State is the likely choice — would raise the odds of earning a bachelor’s degree.
But we’re still talking about long odds. Most remedial math students never earn a degree.
If a basic Algebra II is created, it should be aligned with college placement tests, so students know if they’re on track to take college-level or remedial classes. If the high school maintains high standards in its regular-lane Algebra II, then teachers need a strategy to help math-challenged students pass.
There’s another option: Work with Foothill to create a career-prep track. Community colleges offer programs that qualify students for a “middle-skill” job in two years or less. Some require advanced algebra, but others do not. But this would be seen as setting low expectations for other people’s kids. It wouldn’t fly.
Nearly three quarters of Black and Latino degree‐seeking students did not earn a community college degree in six years, according to a supplemental analysis to Divided We Fail: Improving College Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in California’s Community Colleges. Women are more likely to graduate than men, concludes the report by the Campaign for College Opportunity, the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy (IHELP) at Sacramento State, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), and the Women’s Foundation of California.
While 39 percent of white women earn a degree, the completion rate is only 27 percent for black women and 23 percent for Latinas.
Minority men do much worse. Nearly 80 percent of male Black and Latino college students in California enroll in a community college. After six years, 80 percent have failed to complete a credential.
“For young black men, community colleges are critical in their hopes to learn and become prepared for the workforce so they can improve their standard of living. Unfortunately, many of our men go to community college and then disappear – no training, no degree, no strong employment opportunities,” said Deacon John Wilson, education director of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ.
The state budget crisis may mean more tuition hikes and cuts to student services, warned Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
Black and Latino students who transfer to a four-year institution often choose a for-profit college, risking substantial debt, the report found.
Only 13 percent of Latino men and 15 percent of Latinas transfer compared to nearly 30 percent of white women.
Although Black students were more likely to transfer to a university than Latinos, they were significantly less likely to complete a transfer curriculum or earn an associate degree.
Afraid of debt, college students are working more, taking fewer credits and starting at community colleges. These debt-dodging strategies raise the risks students won’t graduate, reports AP.
“There’s been such attention on student debt being unmanageable that current students have internalized that,” said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president for policy research at the group Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit advocacy group. In fact, “If you can take out a little bit of loan you’re more likely to complete. If you can go to a more selective institution that gives you more resources and support, you’re more likely to complete.”
Students are borrowing less in real dollars, College Board reports. Private loans are way down as students turn to federal aid.
What’s the upside of borrowing? Federal data analyzed by Santiago’s group and The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in 2008 shows roughly 86 percent of students who borrow for college are able to attend full-time, compared to 70 percent of students who don’t borrow. That matters because roughly 60 percent of full-time students receive a bachelor’s degree within eight years, compared to 25 percent of part-time students.
Comparably qualified students are more likely to graduate from a four-year university than a community college, other research shows.
Student debt aversion is most pronounced among Hispanics and Asians, who borrow at lower rates than whites despite having higher financial need. And it appears to have the greatest consequences for Hispanics and blacks.
Fifty-one percent of blacks who had financial need but decided not to borrow had left school within three years without a degree, compared to 39 percent of those who borrowed, the study by Excelencia and IHEP found. For Hispanics, 41 percent of non-borrowers had left, compared to 32 percent who borrowed.
Despite recent tuition jumps at California community colleges, few students take out loans. But they work long hours to pay living expenses, often studying part-time.
Debt aversion is more dangerous than debt, says Eloy Oakley, the president of Long Beach City College.
“The longer they’re in school, the more opportunity they have to be distracted by life events, jobs, families, situations that change in their own families,” says Oakley, whose student body is 41 percent Hispanic and 16 percent Asian. “If we can minimize those exit points and shorten their time to degree, that’s much more advantageous to them.”
Students need “financial literacy” training to understand how to access financial aid and federal loans, balancing reasonable debt against future incomes, advocates say.
However, low graduation rates make debt a higher risk for community college students. A nurse will earn enough to pay off her loans. But most would-be nurses never make it to a degree.