Promising low-income eighth graders federal aid to pay future college expenses could motivate them to prepare for college, enroll and persist, predicts Accelerating College Knowledge: Examining the Feasibility of a Targeted Early Commitment Pell Grant Program, an analysis by Robert Kelchen and Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Students who qualify for a free school lunch in middle school are very likely to qualify for a Pell Grant in college — if they enroll, the study finds.
The persistently low college enrollment and completion rates of youth from poor families are partly attributable to their uncertainty about whether college is affordable. In the current system, concrete information about college costs arrives at the end of high school and is only available to those who complete a complex application. Evidence suggests this timing affects students’ motivation and ability to adequately prepare for college.
Simplifying the eligibility process to make an early Pell promise would increase the program’s costs by approximately $1.5 billion annually, researchers predict. However, “benefits would exceed the costs by approximately $600 million.”
For years now, philanthropists have guaranteed college aid to low-income students who complete high school, notes Inside Higher Ed. Recently, some towns and school districts have launched “promise” programs, which guarantee “some amount of college money to students who meet certain prerequisites.”
The researchers estimated that the guaranteed program would increase high school completion rates by about 10 percent, and that college retention and completion rates would increase by another 3 percent.
Since more educated workers earn more and pay higher taxes, an early Pell promise would more than pay for itself, the study concludes.
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.
As North Carolina’s high school graduation rate rose by 2.3 percent from 2006 to 2009, the community college remediation rate increased by 7 percent, according to the John Locke Foundation.
Sixty-four percent of high school graduates who go on to community college needed to take remedial courses in English, reading, and/or mathematics before they were ready for college-level work.
“Low academic standards and expectations are one of a number of factors that provide marginal students an easier path to graduation, thereby helping to increase North Carolina’s graduation rate,” concludes Dr. Terry Stoops.
Hispanic college enrollment surged by 24 percent from 2009 to 2010 according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of Census data. In 2010, 32 percent of Hispanics 18 to 24 years old were enrolled in college, compared to only 13 percent in 1972 and 27 percent in 2009.
The Hispanic enrollment increase is a result of population growth — 19 percent of the nation’s 18- to 24-year-olds are Hispanic — and rising high school graduation rates.
“This isn’t just about population growth,” Richard Fry, the report’s author, told the New York Times. “They are narrowing the gap.”
The high school graduation rate for young Hispanics soared from 59 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2010.
As more Hispanic, black and Asian-American students enroll in college, the number of young whites declined, Pew reports.
From 2009 to 2010, the number of Hispanic young adults enrolled in college grew by 349,000, compared with an increase of 88,000 young blacks and 43,000 young Asian Americans and a decrease of 320,000 young non-Hispanic whites.
Young Hispanics now outnumber young blacks on campus, even though black college enrollment has grown steadily for decades. In 2010, 38 percent of all 18- to 24-year-old blacks were enrolled in college, up from 13 percent in 1967 and 32 percent in 2008.
Blacks are closing the gap with whites: 43 percent of young whites are enrolled in college. With a 62 percent college enrollment rate, young Asian-Americans are way ahead.
Forty-six percent of young Hispanic college students attend two-year colleges, the report found. That’s significantly higher than the percentage for Asians (22 percent), whites (27 percent) or blacks (37 percent).
Community college students are much less likely to complete a degree — associate or bachelor’s — compared to students who start at a four-year institution.
More Hispanic students are completing high school, according to Census data. The number attending community college has nearly doubled in a decade.
The percentage of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school and don’t have an equivalent degree was 22 percent in 2008, down from 34 percent in 1998.
Meanwhile, the number attending a 2-year college increased 85 percent, from 540,000 in 2000 to 1 million in 2008.
More Hispanic students were born and educated in the U.S.
A majority of Hispanics aspire to bachelor’s degrees, but most choose community colleges, which have low completion rates, said Jose Cruz, an Education Trust vice president.
Frank Alvarez, president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, himself a community college graduate, said that many students fail to finish an associate’s degree because they find themselves inadequately prepared and lacking guidance once they make their way into the system.
“What this does is create an opportunity to think about the population even more clearly as a college-going community, as a community that does have educational success,” said Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia in Education.
Some early-college programs have closed for lack of funding, reports Education Week. The Gates Foundation began funding early college high schools in 2002, creating a network of 214 programs coordinated by Jobs for the Future. Another 100 programs operate outside that network.
Those early colleges target groups underrepresented in higher education—such as African-Americans, Latinos, low-income students, and those who are the first in their families to attend college—by offering a shorter, less expensive, and highly supportive route to earning a college degree.
Most of the $107 million Gates Foundation grant has been spent and the foundation has shifted its focus to other education projects, Ed Week reports. Without state or local funding, it’s hard for programs to survive.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, two such schools have closed in Georgia, and a District of Columbia high school greatly scaled back its school-within-a-school early-college program. In Ohio, Youngstown State University is transferring responsibility for an early-college high school on its campus to the nearby Eastern Gateway Community College because it can no longer afford to sponsor it.
Financial sustainability “varies dramatically, based on local policies, on how much local funding there is, or how much they’ve been able to supplement it,” said Andrea R. Berger, the project director for a national evaluation of early colleges commissioned by the Gates Foundation.
Early-college participants in the Jobs for the Future network take college classes for free. Some states pay the tuition costs, but others do not.
Two large-scale randomized studies compare students who won a lottery to attend early-college high schools to those who applied but lost the lottery.
A national study by the American Institutes for Research has found positive results.
. . . proficiency rates on standardized tests are higher for early-college participants than for the control-group students in the same school districts. Attendance rates and four-year high school graduation rates are also higher for the early-college students.
In a North Carolina study, ninth and 10th graders in early-college programs are more likely to take and succeed in college courses; more are staying in school.