Sunday, May 26, 2013

Higher Education: Separate and Unequal

This from College Bound:
Just as the K-12 system uses Title I money to provide extra educational support for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, a new report calls for innovative programs and big changes in the way higher education is funded to create a more level playing field for students from poor and minority families.

The report, Bridging the Higher Education Divide, released today at the nonprofit Century Foundation was the result of work by a community college task force led by Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, and Eduardo PadrĂ³n, president of Miami Dade College.

The group details the growing stratification in American higher education, with more low-income students attending two-year schools that have lower graduation rates, compared with four-year universities where students tend to be wealthier and more likely to complete. According to the report, financial support for community colleges has not kept up with the need, which the task force argues is greater because students generally do not enter as prepared academically as those at more selective four-year schools.

Students enroll in community colleges with high hopes, but often struggle. While about 81 percent of students entering community college for the first time say they eventually want to transfer and earn at least a bachelor's degree, just 12 percent actually do so within six years, the report found.

Among low-income students with high academic qualifications for college, 69 percent who went to a four-year institution earned a bachelor's degree compared with 19 percent who started at a community college.

Campus diversity varies widely by the type of institution. The report finds that high-socioeconomic students outnumber low-socioeconomic students 14 to 1 in the most competitive four-year institutions, while low-SES students outnumber high-SES students in community colleges nearly 2 to 1. The report calls for four-year colleges to do more to reach out to more low-income applicants and for community colleges to try to attract students from more affluent backgrounds in an effort to diversify campuses.

Adding to the problem of completion at two-year schools is the lack of funding.

The report notes that community colleges received $8,594 per student in 2009 from federal, state, and local government sources, while public research institutions received $16,966. The amount of money spent on instruction at community colleges was about $5,000 per student in 2009, compared with $10,000 at public research universities and $20,000 at private research universities, the report says.

"A central problem is that two-year colleges are asked to educate those students with the greatest needs, using the least funds, and in increasingly separate and unequal institutions," the report says.

"Our higher education system, like the larger society, is growing more and more unequal. We need radical innovations that redesign institutions and provide necessary funding tied to performance."

The report includes a number of proposed strategies to promote greater diversity across all higher education institutions and promote completion rates among disadvantaged students.

1. Adopt state and federal adequacy-based funding similar to that used in primary and secondary education, linking support with outcomes.

2. Establish greater transparency of public financial subsidies to higher education.

3. Encourage closer connections between community colleges and universities.

4. Take steps to improve transfers from community colleges to four-year institutions.

5. Encourage innovation in racially and economically inclusive community college honors programs.

6. Support more early-college programs that promote community college diversity.

7. Prioritize funding of new programs for economically and racially isolated community colleges.

8. Provide incentives for four-year institutions to engage in affirmative action for low-income students of all races.

"Efforts to make inequalities in higher education funding more transparent, coupled with legal and public-policy efforts to level-up public funding of community colleges, should make it possible to improve the quality of community colleges," the report concludes.


Anonymous said...

I am wondering with the shifting population demographic trends who we are going to identify "minority" in the future. Seems like financial need of a student continues to be the consistent limiting factor for students to complete post secondary degrees, not race.

Richard Day said...

Sure. But part of the problem is that blacks are overrepresented among the poor. So it's a statistical double whammy.

Anonymous said...

You really are comparing apples with oranges when it comes to 4 year vs. community. Community colleges are much more heavily staffed by adjuncts who don't get paid much to teach a course. Community colleges usually don't offer residential services for students. Those two factors alone seem to be pretty significant in terms of a culture (much less resources) of student support.

Anonymous said...

"community colleges to try to attract students from more affluent backgrounds in an effort to diversify campus." - You have got to be kidding me, really?? If students or their parents have the funds to send their child to a 4 year university, I don't see any reason why they would bother with CC much less be concerned about its diversity ideals. I also doubt any of the four year institutions are going to forgo collection of full tuition payments and instead create more scholarships for poor students or minority students.

Students go to community colleges because they are less expensive, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that the enrollments consist of lower SES students. I suspect that community colleges also provide a larger piece of that instructional pie to non traditional and part time students who reside in that community.

If I could afford to send my kid to an exclusive private school which I think provides better services and instruction or to a high end university which specializes in a top notch program he is interested in pursuing, I am going to do it. If all I can afford is milking out a few courses every semester at the local community college, then that's what it will have to be.

In my book universities need to start finding ways of making education more financially accessible to ALL students. The undergraduates who get screwed are your middle of the road students (income and scholastic) who don't qualify for need based scholarships who are academically competent but don't hold top 10% ranking in their classes. We're not talking about low income families here but middle income families with 2 or 3 kids. They can't come up with 20 grand for four years to send each of their kids to a state university, much less leave their child with $75,000 student loan debt to pay off a bachelor's degree.

If 4 year colleges continue their on going tuition increases, they will eventually force more middle income, white folks into community colleges out of family fiscal necessity.

Anonymous said...

Hey, welcome to the new normal. Universities are being expected to run like businesses. Academia is going to have to start "reframing" and "shifting their paradigm" from those ivory tower ideals to one of accountability. You can't make book, your program closes. Kids from families who have some money are the ones paying the bills these days, not state coffers, and that trend is only going to increase. Last I looked diversifying student population and using paying families' dime to cover other undergrad's tuition to attend state U was being trumped by private dorm rooms, private health/gym facilities and art centers to bring in entertainment to the campus.
Not trying to be overly sarcastic but its just a doggone reality of where we are going. Just like universities, maybe private industry needs to start sponsoring folks (ala armed forces) to go to college with the expectation of service to the company for a few years because I can pretty sure we can't bank on Frankfort or Washington to come up with any funds and I have my hands full now just paying for my own kid's tuition - can't afford paying for someone else.

Anonymous said...

Sounds kind of hypocritical to me. Up until the purse strings started tightening up a few years ago, university folks didn't seem to think twice about graduation rates at either 2 or 4 year institutions, some even seemd to view it as badge of exclusivity or ensuring high levels of academic performance were maintained. Wasn't that long ago the state legislature was threatening to withhold university funds if they didn't reach increasing minority benchmarks but that kind of feel through the cracks when they started cutting funding even more drastically than threatened but out of fiscal necessity and not diversification ideals. To me it seems like all these ideals and values get put back in the drawer whenever tax funding starts to dry up.

Nice thoughts in the article but I don't see how you do this from a practical or financial stand point. Families are going to do what's best for their kids within their resources and universities are going to do what is in the best interest of themselves and their resources.

Post script - this is not a joke but one of the two words for my entry below is "Pennyless" and the other one is "Threadim". LOL

Anonymous said...

Richard, I understand your point about the double whammy but why just blacks? How about Hispanics or Asian Pacific or Native Americans or biracial or .....? How do you draw the line when it comes to who has the right skin color and who doesn't have enough money? I am very uncomfortable with using "minority" as some sort of catch all term for researchers. Case in point is how Asian's historically(though a numeric minority) are often discounted in this identification when their financial or scholastic statistics outpace some sort of stereotyped expectation of the greater minority identifier. They are not anomalies or outliers - they are people with different physical characteristics who do not hold the majority.

Granted white men are certainly not a protected identifier but last I heard women were out pacing men in terms of post secondary and graduate school enrollments - I doubt we are going to hear anyone clamoring to get more poor white fellas into the college classroom.

Sorry, but the dynamics of the people and institutions are just to overly simplified for me.

Anonymous said...

Unequal is not just a student characterist based upon who goes but also the very institutions. Does anyone think that KCTC, Kentucky State, University of Kentucky, Centre, Western and Kentucky Weslyan are anywhere near being equal as institutions of higher learning. You can't just lump all four year colleges and universities into one big heap and compare them to community colleges as though there is some sort of common ground for comparison.

Anonymous said...

1 So doing what they do in JCPS is going to create diversification?

2 Governmental subsidies for some states' universities don't even pay the electric bill, not sure how transparency is going to show you much other than a lack of funding by state/feds

3. A lot of CC business is two year and technical degrees, not sure if building bridges between CC and 4 year institutions is even a valued end for CCs who might fear losing students to 4 year underclassman admissions.

6 What does this even mean? Promote diversity in community colleges - not sure how you do that when the their basis is to provided finite educational opportunities to local students.

7 Good luck, I don't see universities giving up even more of their pie so CC can take more students into their camp.

8 If you are poor - you qualify for additional services, if you are minority - you get minority exclusive opportunities in addtion to general opportunities. We are already doing this.

Come on, universities are fighting each other for every student they can get, they could care less what their minority status is.

Richard Day said...

May 27, 2013 at 9:49 PM: Yes, you are correct to suggest that Latinos are also overrepresented among the poor. Did the report single out blacks? I thought it looked across the board.

Of course, drawing lines between races is the problem.

Perhaps the day will come when color no longer matters and equal justice abides (the US Supreme Court seems to believe that day has already arrived). I'm not sure we are quite there yet, but one measure of an egalitarian nation might be that data on race no longer bears watching.

In this case, the data is being used to promote community college issues - as though the phenomena is something new.