Pushing minority kids to 4-year colleges

Latino and black students are as likely as whites to start college, but much less likely to earn a degree, writes Janell Ross in The Atlantic. Most Latino and black students start at two-year colleges with open admissions and low graduation rates. In Los Angeles, there’s a move to help disadvantaged students start at state universities.

Students at gang- and poverty-ridden East Los Angeles’s Garfield High School who meet minimum requirements will now enjoy guaranteed admission to California State University (Los Angeles). The same initiative will also guarantee that students at East L.A. College, a nearby community college, can transfer to Cal State L.A., and the community college will expand its course offerings available to Garfield students.

The partnership between the Los Angeles Board of Education, Cal State Los Angeles, and East Los Angeles College includes mentors and internships.

“Even minority students with high GPAs and standardized-test scores are far more likely to attend two-year schools than their white peers and are subsequently far less likely to graduate,” according to Separate and Unequal, a 2013 report by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “More than 30 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics with a high school grade point average (GPA) higher than 3.5 go to community colleges compared with 22 percent of whites with the same GPA.”

“Selective colleges spend anywhere from two to almost five times as much on instruction per student as the open-access colleges” and offer far more counseling, tutoring and other support services to help students earn a degree, the report observed.

The college ladder is broken

College is supposed to be a ladder to the middle class, but it’s not working very well that way, writes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. After watching a new documentary, Ivory Tower. he’s worried about social mobility.

“The good news is that more and more kids are going to college,” said Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “The bad news is that higher education is becoming more and more stratified.”

. . .  since 1994, 80 percent of the white young men and women in this country who have headed off to college have gone to schools ranked in the top 500 by Barron’s. But 75 percent of the black and Latino young men and women who have entered college over the same period have gone to two-year or open-admissions schools outside the top 500.

Graduation rates are low at unselective four-year colleges and community colleges.

California faces demand for college, job training

In Educating Julio, California Competes looks at where the state’s community colleges should grow to meet student demand and promote equity.
The report looks at two students: Julio is interested in the building trades, but doesn’t know how he can find a training program. Pablo has been admitted to University of California at Merced, but is thinking about enrolling at Santa Monica College with hopes of transferring to UCLA.

Pablo and his middle-class parents will search for the best educational choices. The “squeaky wheel gets the seat.”

Julio “won’t even realize there is a welding program at his nearby college unless someone finds him and talks to him.” His unmet demand for job training will be invisible.

The current system favors the status quo, concludes California Competes. Under the state’s governance system, community college boards can’t approve new programs or change the curriculum without approval from the faculty senate. That lets incumbent instructors protect their turf. “Even if launching a welding program is the right move to attract and retain Julio as a student, it may not happen if key interest groups have other priorities in mind.”

Funding rewards colleges that play it safe. Opening a new campus in a high-need neighborhood or starting classes in new fields is risky. If the students don’t enroll, the college could miss targets. It’s safer to offer classes in “the subjects and locations where enrollment is most certain.”

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, California’s community colleges finally will be able to increase enrollment. Growth should be funded by regions rather than districts, the report argues.

Formal district boundaries have become increasingly obsolete. In the wake of Proposition 13, the colleges became primarily state-funded. While colleges used to impose barriers or costs on out-of-district students, colleges now enroll any California resident on equal terms.

Statewide, nearly a third of all students cross the invisible district lines to enroll at what may or may not be the nearest community college. At the extreme, nearly nine out of ten students at Santa Monica College live outside of the district.

Most California high school students are not eligible for state universities: Only 38 percent of graduates complete college-prep courses with a C or better. Factoring in students who don’t graduate on time, only 30 percent of students — 20 percent of Latinos and 18 percent of blacks — can enroll directly in a state university. 

Latinos narrow graduation gap

The Latino college completion gap is narrowing for full-time students, reports Excelencia in Education in a new report. The gap fell from 14 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2014: 41 percent of Latinos graduate in 150 percent of the normal time compared to 50 percent of all first-time, full-time college students.

However, almost half of Latino college students are enrolled part-time. Their completion rates remain very low.

Miami Dade College, South Texas College, El Paso Community College, East Los Angeles College and Florida International College enroll the most Latino students. “Four of the top five are predominantly community colleges,” said Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president of policy at Excelencia.

Miami Dade, El Paso and South Texas also rank in the top five for awarding associate degrees to Latinos, along with Valencia College and University of Phoenix Online. “We are seeing the closure in the achievement gaps in some states, but not all,” said Santiago.

ASSOCIATE DEGREES: Top 5 Institutions Awarding to Hispanics, 2011-12

Rank Institution State Sector Grand Total Hispanic Total % Hispanic
1 Miami Dade College FL 4yr Public 11,959 7,958 67
2 El Paso Community College TX 2yr Public 3,790 3,244 86
3 University of Phoenix – Online 4yr Private For-Profit 39,341 2,424 6
4 South Texas College TX 4yr Public 2,292 2,138 93
5 Valencia College FL 4yr Public 7,974 2,129 27

California, which has the highest numbers of Latino students, lags in graduating them: Only 15 percent of the state’s Latino students completed a degree or certificate in 2010-11.  “Why does California, the state with the largest Latino population in the nation, not have a single college break into the top five nationally for awarding degrees to Latinos?” asked Santiago.

Florida does much better in enrolling — and graduating — Latinos.

Latinos make up 22 percent of K-12 students and 17 percent of the population, reports Excelencia.  The median age for Latinos is 27, compared to 42 for non-Hispanic whites.

Twenty percent of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher compared to 36 percent of all adults.

Tu Futuro helps Latinos set goals

Tu Futuro, which means “your future,” is encouraging Latino students in Indianapolis to aim high, reports the Indianapolis Star.

Paola Padilla didn’t think (college) … was possible for someone like her.

For one, she is an undocumented immigrant. Also, no one in her family has a college degree.

But after graduating from Southport High School earlier this year, the 19-year-old is taking community college classes and hopes to later transfer to a university. She wants to pursue a career in accounting or in the medical field.

Tu Futuro, developed by La Plaza Inc., visits more than 20 high schools to discuss career goals, scholarship opportunities and how to pursue a college education. Tabitha Truax, a program coordinator, helped Padilla apply for scholarships and tour the University of Indianapolis. Truax helped her “get motivated,” she says.

Padilla qualified for a work permit through Deferred Action, a new federal program.

Born in Mexico, Padilla moved with her family to Indiana when she was 7. Her mother and two older siblings didn’t finish high school. Her father studied briefly to become an electrician.

Now, she juggles full-time school work with a 20- to 30-hour-a-week job at McDonald’s while also going through a nursing assistant program at RESQ, a medical training organization in Indianapolis.

. . . With the help of Tu Futuro, Padilla received a couple of scholarships that helped pay for her first semester at Ivy Tech Community College. But because she is not an Indiana resident, she pays out-of-state fees. Padilla said that amounts to $4,000 a semester.

Already struggling to pay for Ivy Tech, Padilla hopes to transfer to Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, which costs $12,000 semester. “I want to be someone in life.”

Students will be less affluent, more Latino

Colleges and universities will compete for fewer white, affluent students, according to demographic projections. That could drive some tuition-dependent private colleges out of business.

The number of black students is declining too, while the number of Latino and Asian-American students will increase significantly in the next decade. “The nation’s already seeing a sharp rise in first-generation and low-income graduates, reports the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Some colleges and universities have stepped up recruiting of first-generation students, but most apply to low-cost community colleges.

The number of high-school graduates is projected to drop sharply in several Midwestern and Northeastern states.

Who Will Reach College Age in the Next 14 Years? shows demographic changes, interactively, down to the county level.

Nationally, the number of college-age whites will decline by 14.8 percent and blacks by 8.9 percent over the next 14 years, while college-age Latinos will rise by 13.7 percent and Asians by 14.6 percent.

Mapping the college path

The Postsecondary Success Collaborative has released its Asset Map, which helped raise college enrollment and persistence rates by more than 30 percent among African American and Latino students.

High schools in Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco used the tool to evaluate students’ needs and the school and community resources available to help them succeed in college.

“There are too many well-meaning programs and services trying to get students into college that work in isolation and lack expertise in certain areas or require additional funding,” says Rochelle Nichols-Solomon, Director, Postsecondary Success at FHI 360. “Asset mapping identifies these programs and services, highlights where they are succeeding and exposes gaps where students need more support. Schools then work strategically with education, business, government and community sectors to help more students to access, and succeed in higher education.”

According to a report based on an independent five-year evaluation,  “the asset mapping tool not only helped raise college enrollment rates, but also helped raise college persistence rates by 32 percent for African American and Latino students in schools that had particularly strong leadership and commitment to PSC.”

CC choice blamed for Latino graduation gap

Forty-six percent of Latinos who graduated from high-scoring public high schools enrolled in a community college, according to a USC study. That compares to 23 percent of their black classmates, 19 percent of Asians and 27 percent of white students. White and Asian students are much more likely to enroll at a four-year university.

Graduation rates are much lower for students who start at community colleges.

Table 1. College-Attendance Rates of California High School Graduates by Public Higher Education System and Race/Ethnicity, 2010


Community College Attendance Rate

CSU Attendance Rate

UC Attendance Rate













African   American




South Pasadena is known for excellent public schools. Of South Pasadena High’s 2010 Latino graduates, 71 percent went straight to community college, reports KPCC.  Only about a third of the school’s white and Asian graduates that year attended community college.

“Perhaps certain kinds of college pathways are promoted for different types of students,” said George Washington University education researcher Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, who authored the study. “We know that tracking is real. We know that differential expectations for academic performance based on things like race and class are real.”

Lower-income students are more likely to choose to a low-cost community college, especially if their parents don’t understand financial aid options.

From Colorado: For low-income students, getting into college is only half the battle. Graduating is a challenge.

Whites doubt college degree’s value

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.

college value

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.

Latinos aim high, fall short

California Latinos are completing high school and enrolling in college in record numbers, but college graduation rates remain low, according to a new report, The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California.

Expectations are high: 83 percent of Latino parents want their children to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. But only 11 percent of Latino adults have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 39 percent of whites.

Latinos are expected to reach majority status in California by 2050, notes the Campaign for College Opportunity,  which produced the report. “The math is clear,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign. “If the California economy is to have the college-educated workforce it needs, we must find ways to significantly improve college completion rates among Latinos.”

“The good news is that this report confirms the incredible willingness and desire among Latino youth to go to college,” said Siqueiros. “Enrollment is high and growing. But too few Latino college students are completing a certificate or college degree. We are falling into a pattern of improved college access, without success.”

Compared to their white and Asian-American classmates, Latinos are less likely to enroll in a selective college or four-year university. They’re also less likely to enroll full-time and much less likely to earn a credential.
Seventy percent of first-time Latino college-goers in the state enrolled at a community college in 2012. Of degree-seeking Latinos who complete six units and attempt an English or math course, 40 percent earn a certificate or associate degree or transfer within six years, estimates a scorecard created by the California Community Colleges. That includes nearly 65 percent of “prepared” Latinos and 35 percent of “unprepared” Latinos. However, only 20 percent Latinos earned a credential or transferred, according to the Campaign’s 2010 study. Researchers looked at students who’d earned six units, regardless of math or English attempts.

To close the college gap, the Campaign for College Opportunity recommends creating a statewide higher education plan with benchmarks for increasing Latino enrollment and completion rates, and for decreasing time spent in remedial education. “We’ve looked at Texas, which is very aggressive at articulating goals, college by college,” said Siqueiros in an online press conference.

In addition:

Fund colleges for both enrollment and success — Establish a new funding mechanism that creates incentives for increasing graduation and completion rates.

Get everyone on the same page — Improve coordination between high schools and colleges on college preparation and assessment.

Invest in services students need to succeed — Prioritize resources that support student success and completion, including orientation, counseling and services to close information gaps for low-income, first-generation Latino students.

Strengthen financial support options for students — Ensure that all eligible students apply and receive federal and California student aid for which they qualify.

“Access is not enough,” said Siqueiros.