Sunday, August 26, 2007

The college process: Academic readiness

College has begun for many of our young adults (see the list below). As with all college students, entering and going through college is a learning process. However, this year as I've helped kids enroll, I don't know that we can be smug and satisfied just because we have a list of kids in college.

The students I've worked with are not prepared academically. Though I believe any student going through college is better off than one who doesn't, we need to be careful that we are not setting our kids up to fail.

Probably 90% of the students I know have to take at least one remedial or "developmental" class their first year. Many of them have to take all 3 developmental classes (reading, writing, and math)...sometimes more than once until they can pass them. Developmental classes cost the same as any other college class, but provide no college credit hours on their transcript.

I've been reading a study from the Pell Institute, Raising the Graduation Rates of Low-Income College Students. The study supports what I've noticed:

Older students and students enrolled part time are factors that are associated with lower graduation rates.

Financial problems are often a factor, but there are also non-financial risk factors:

  • being financially independent (many of our students are completely on their own for all practical purposes. They receive no financial help from their parents for any college, or other, expenses)
  • delaying enrollment after high school (although this has been a motivational factor for some, as stated before, students entering college as an older student is associated with lower graduation rates)
  • having inadequate academic preparation ("Students from low-income families are less likely to receive high quality K-12 education, which severely limits their college choices and financial aid opportunities. They also don't often receive the same information and encouragement to attend from families, teachers and counselors as do their more advantaged peers" pg. 8)
  • having extensive family obligations (though they are in school, many of them are trying to make money to support their parents...some of whom are working at jobs that don't pay enough to make ends meet and some of whom are not working for various reasons and their children feel obligated to help them pay their bills, thus creating a system where a college student is supporting two or more people while trying to make time for their own education so they can ultimately do better financially and help their family. Unfortunately, a current, lower-paying job sometimes wins out over looking at the long-term benefits.)
  • lacking experience with the college environment (which is self explanatory, but I will address the lack of experience with the financial part of college in the next blog post).
Paul Gorski in his article, The Question of Class, does a good job of addressing some of the systemic disadvantages and injustices low-income students experience, challenging our assumptions about students in poverty and the obstacles they face. Before we begin blaming the parents, he argues (and I whole-heartedly agree!), we need to address the reality of the systemic injustices in our society.

The obstacles to a student from a low-income neighborhood are huge, but not insurmountable. However, it is not fair for us to leave it up to the students and put all of the responsibility on them when we, as a society, have not done our job to prepare them. We *must* get involved and do more on the front end of their education.

Shantaye Moore--graduate school, Texas Southern University
Kieva Moore--graduate school, Stephen F. Austin
Tiffany Johnson, senior--Baylor University
Fredrick Williams, junior--Lamar University
Ashley Johnson, freshman--Langston University
Albert Ross, sophomore--El Centro College
Johnas McKinny, sophomore--El Centro College
Jessica Orogbu, junior--Texas A&M-Commerce
Keith Davis, junior--Texas A&M-Commerce
Josephine Davis, freshman
Oscar Aparicio, sophomore--University of Texas-Austin
Kimberly Aparicio, Southwestern Medical School
Veronica White, junior--University of Texas-Arlington
Steven Roberts, freshman--El Centro College
Yuridiana Salinas, freshman--El Centro College
Lewanna Hobbs, freshman--Texas A&M-Commerce
Ronyell Byers, sophomore--El Centro College
Britney Brown, sophomore--El Centro College
Terrance Johnson, junior--Texas A&M-Commerce
Yasma Campbell, junior--Texas A&M-Commerce
Bridgette Miles, junior--Texas A&M-Commerce
Erica Lopez, junior--University of North Texas
Anabeli Ibarra, junior--Eastfield College
Monica Ibarra, freshman--Eastfield College
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