College News

Race and income influence decreased high school graduation, dwindling college enrollment

Racial and economic disparities factor into the decreased college enrollment and high school graduation rates. What efforts have the UW System done thus far to combat this?

Image By: Christopher Guess

With the rising number of high school graduates decreasing over the past few years and college enrollment falling, race and income proved to be the two most significant factors. What has the UW System done since then to alleviate the losses?

The number of graduates will continue to decline in the next 20 years; meanwhile the percentage of low-income students and students of color will increase.

Data shows there was a decrease in enrollment of white Americans from 138,299 in 2016 to 136,043 in 2017. In contrast, from 2016-’17, Hispanic students experienced an increase in enrollment from 9,158 to 9,766.

African Americans in Dane County were 6.2 times as likely as non-Hispanic white Americans to live in poverty. The likelihood was 2.6 times nationwide.

“About 1 in 3 white high school grads go to college somewhere in the UW system; this number drops to 1 in 10 for Black high school grads,” said Nicholas Hillman, assistant professor in the School of Education in the UW-Madison.

These inequalities are further reflected in college graduation rates. In 2011, the graduation rate for African-American students was 31.9 percent, under half the rate for white students at 64.5 percent, according to the UW System database.

“There is a strong correlation between income and non-equitable academic opportunities, not ability,” said Noel Tomas Radomski, the director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education.

In 2017, President Ray Cross created the UW System Diversity Council aiming to encourage national diversity within the communities the UW System serves. Every UW campus developed a variety of leading pre-college and first-year programs to help students of color transition successfully to colleges.

Besides the programs that originated from UW campuses, Radomski noted many school districts have partnered with community-based organizations that aimed to decrease the achievement gap. The UW System also grants financial aid to students, especially students of color.

“The UW System and all of its institutions are actively engaged in trying to expand the number of students of color and other underrepresented groups to enroll,” said Heather Laroi, the director of Strategic Communications for the UW System.

According to the 2016-’17 Financial Aid report of the UW System, 75 percent of all UW underrepresented minority students received some form of financial aid. In comparison, 55 percent of white students received financial aid.

In June, the UW System proposed for an increase in state grants. They are demanding $3.25 million more in 2018-’19 for the grant program, Wisconsin’s largest financial aid program for college students.

Though much effort was made to support students of color to overcome difficulties in receiving higher education, there is still a systemic oppression within education systems.

“Since race is a socially constructed phenomenon, we need to think about the social factors driving these inequalities: racism, wealth inequality, segregation, unequal K-12 school resources, unequal access to affordable public health,” said Hillman.

Updated: October 29, 2018, 10:54 a.m: A quote in regards to the number of high school graduates varying between black and white students from Nicholas Hillman was incorrect and changed to the original statement he wrote in an email.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Cardinal.