Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Obstacles to College Access - One Solution

“Any country that fails to encourage and develop the talent in each individual through its public school system will suffer greatly, because the quality of a nation depends on the collective wisdom of both its leaders and its citizens.”

Bruce Alberts, the Editor-in-Chief of Science Magazine offered that thought – addressing an issue of major significance for our nation and others: A college degree has increasingly become significantly important – not just for individuals who aspire to better jobs, but for our society which needs a competent workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 80% of “growth occupations” will require a college degree. Yet obstacles to learning, for low income students and students of color – whose numbers have increased greatly – have impeded many of these young people from achieving their potential and reaching college.

So, I took special note of recent news from Admission Possible. This Saint Paul organization identifies low-income young people with talent and motivation and assists them to earn admission to college; it plans to expand to as many as 10 cities. Both this program and the issue it addresses merit our consideration.

Wilder Research evaluated Admission Possible in the mid-2000s. Our objective, systematic look at the program revealed very positive results.

During the time of our study, the program enrolled high school students from families with incomes in the bottom half of family incomes in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. About 90 percent were youth of color. These students face many barriers to attending college, beginning at a young age. Nonetheless, 100% of program participants who graduated from high school in 2005 received an acceptance from at least one college; 91% actually enrolled in the fall. Among African-American participants, 98% enrolled in college, compared with 85-90% among other racial/ethnic groups.

No single strategy or type of program will eliminate the achievement gap or remove all the obstacles to educational success for low income students and students of color. However, this is one approach which can deliver positive results for at least some high potential young people.

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