“What this means is that the American Dream for many low-income students has been deferred, perhaps permanently. Young people not born to well-off families will not surpass their parents in income and home ownership, they will not surge into promising careers, and they will not trust the American system to do right by them.”

– Source: “New Data: College Enrollment for Low-Income High School Grads Plunged by 29% During the Pandemic” by Richard Whitmire, the 73million.org blog, December 10, 2020Richard Whitmire, quoted above, is author of the book  “The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America.” In his blog post, “New Data: College Enrollment for Low-Income High School Grads Plunged by 29% During the Pandemic,” he sounds several alarms that are worth understanding:

  • Overall college admission rates are plummeting, but 2021 College admission rates for lower-income students have plunged at a rate that is twice as high as the rate for students from wealthier households.
  • Poorer high schools are sending fewer students to college. College admission rates have plummeted by 29.2% for students who have attended underfunded high schools.
  • Admission rates for underprivileged students at community colleges have fallen 37.1%.
  • The admission rate for poorer male students is falling faster than it is for female students.
  • When fewer students from poor households go to college, they set up a trend that is likely to endure in the future in their families. Why? Because when students go to college, they influence younger and future family members to go to college too.

And Still More Trends Point to Troubles for Lower-Income Students

Mr. Whitmore points out that community colleges are eager to understand where students – the students they have traditionally served in the past – are intending to further their education today.

In addition to those colleges, smaller and less exclusive four-year institutions are worrying that they will experience even more difficulties filling their classes – and surviving – in the years ahead. One reason he cites is that in order to maintain their enrollments, those colleges have offered large amounts of financial aid this year; those expenditures could limit their financial resources in the years to come.

In his post, Mr. Whitmore does not point out several other trends that could spell trouble for American students and colleges. One is that when colleges lower their admission standards – as some have during the pandemic and in preceding years – they increase the chances that more of their students will not graduate. They also make themselves appear less attractive to prospective students, fall in college rankings, and suffer other setbacks.

What will save community and less exclusive four-year colleges that have provided a needed educational resource for underprivileged students? Who will step in and come up with new ideas that will allow underprivileged students to attend college and lead better lives?

One positive trend is that so much goodwill toward students exists among teachers, high schools, colleges, and other entities that are already working in education. Who wants to save students from underprivileged backgrounds? Everyone does. And even while many other trends are limiting educational options for poorer students, that could lead to positive outcomes in ways we cannot now predict or understand as the pandemic subsides.

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