Access to Higher Ed for H.S. dropouts

Many of us, who have matriculated through college and reaped the benefits thereof, are concerned that not enough of our peers have taken the advantages of gaining a higher education. This is especially troubling when you know of people who chose to drop out of high school because we all know how difficult it is to take care of yourself without a H.S. diploma. But if there was a way where you could go to college without graduating from high school, would you supportive or would you be skeptical? Karen Arenson of the New York Times tackles this issue and your answer might not be as straight-forward as you may think.

That’s right, “many colleges — public and private, two-year and four-year — will accept students who have not graduated from high school or earned equivalency degrees.” This seems like a win-win right? Schools collect on student loans and the students get a second chance to make things right. However, the growing interest in admitting those that have not graduated “is fueling a debate over whether the students should be in college at all and whether state financial aid should pay their way. In New York, the issue flared in a budget battle this spring.”

But to first put this issue in a national context,

“There are nearly 400,000 students, (who are attending college without a H.S. diploma)… accounting for 2 percent of all college students, 3 percent at community colleges and 4 percent at commercial, or profit-making, colleges, according to a survey by the United States Education Department in 2003-4. That is up from 1.4 percent of all college students four years earlier. The figures do not include home-schooled students.”

So we are looking at an increase of roughly 8% points in eight years, which is more likely to grow in the future as more students become aware of this opportunity.

Supporters of this practice believe that because access to college is a critical factor in determining later success, students who do not have a H.S. diploma should therefore be allowed to attend to college. On the other hand, some say that this is just another form of social promotion and perhaps de-motivates students to do their best in high school.

But if the schools didn’t accept these students, they wouldn’t be able to go right? Of course, but you have to realize that like most things in life, this issue comes down to money. And as Arenson points out,

“Many community colleges and two-year commercial colleges take these students, as do some less selective four-year colleges. At Interboro Institute, a large commercial college in Manhattan, 94 percent of the students last year did not have a high school diploma. Yet most received federal and state financial aid, up to $9,000 a student for the neediest.”

Now you know I had to look up the racial statistics for Interboro and I was so surprised to see that of the 2005-2006 class, 42.1% of the students were Black (non-Hispanic) and 41.8 were Hispanic (non-Black) bringing us to a (drumroll please) a student body that is over 80% Black and Hispanic. It is funny how people that want to abolish affirmative action in higher education tend focus their efforts on highly-selective institutions. But that’s a whole different post.

“At Interboro, the state recently found cheating by employees on the exam students have to pass to qualify for state and financial aid.” What’s that I hear, institutions of higher education mainly using Black and Brown people to get more money? “In the late 1980’s and early 90’s, federal investigators found many commercial colleges effectively sweeping unqualified students, many without high school credentials, from the streets into their classrooms to collect their financial aid. The students then dropped out and defaulted on their government loans.” The statistics show that even students that have some higher education do better financially than those that don’t, so who are both parties being pimped?

Either way, NY Governor George Pataki had enough of it has “tried to withdraw state tuition grants from students without high school diplomas this year. Mr. Pataki said the students should show their commitment to education and earn 24 college credits before the state gave them financial aid.” Of course, the federal government has all but walked out on financial aid by seeing to it that students expect loans more than they expect state grants and federal aid. Therefore, I think Pataki and the entrenched public school system should show their commitment to education so that all children have access to equal and quality education. It’s like you have kids going through horrible K-12 systems and then expect everything to honky dory once they graduate. So instead of washing our kids away when they graduate, let’s re-examine the K-12 experience so that students and parents have the confidence and the skills to do whatever they want in life.

Pataki agrees with me too, his spokesman, Scott Reif said this, “In too many cases, students fail to graduate from college because they were admitted to programs for which they were academically underprepared.” So if kids are unprepared, what is the point of dangling financial aid in front of students who you readily admit are often times academically underprepared. But instead of taking responsibility for our kid’s education, we blame it on the proverbial “they” that includes each and every one of us.

Getting back to Pataki, the New York State Legislature rejected the governor’s proposal and the state budget office estimated that it paid $29 million a year for 13,000 students who never graduated from high school to attend college. Now some would say that 29 million is a lot of money but in the grand scheme of things, it really is just a drop in the bucket compared to what we spend for health care and defense.

But that’s not really the point right? The goal is to keep open the doors of higher education so that once kids receive a quality K-12 education, the world is theirs for the taking. But does allowing students without a high school diploma attend college part of the solution or part of the problem. I admit I am on the fence but one idea I like is that “the government now requires that before students lacking high school credentials can qualify for financial aid, they have to pass a test approved by the federal Department of Education to show they have the “ability to benefit” from higher education.” Even though this may seem like another barrier, much like the ACT/SAT, I am afraid that without such parameters, students will lose some of the urgency in knowing that going through high school will greatly improve their chances for going to college.

Please let me know what you think because this post was very cathartic,

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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3 responses to “Access to Higher Ed for H.S. dropouts”

  1. Garlin II says :

    We have talked about schools that take on students with “formidable hurdles to retention,” such as Baker College in Michigan. What is troubling to me is that programs such as this are implemented with the intention of actually further disenfranchising disadvantaged students as opposed to giving the tools they need to be successful.

  2. Anonymous says :

    There has to be systems in place that will help students that were not successful in the traditional high school settings especially from big impersonal high school where quiet, non-assertive children are unable to adapt and get lost in the mix. Do we end all programs or do we work together to develop programs that will nuture theses students. Do we as young black professionals stand back and say I got mine and I don’t understand why they didn’t take advantage of their opportunities to get theirs. What are the challenges or problems that they were not able to overcome.
    Or do we help by becoming friends,mentors, and encouragers to those who have problems in our familes, churches, communities, and friendship circles in order to ensure that we are not talking from afar? I would like to hear your comments – Brandon, Garlin, Steven!
    Much love, Lady B

  3. Garlin II says :

    Thanks Lady B for commenting here. As you may be aware, we are big on mentorship here. I’m not exactly sure what programs you are referring to when you say “end all programs,” but I do not think the answer is to end all enrichment and/or supplemental instruction programs for students at all levels of academic success. I think you are right on when you say that there is a tremendous opportunity to develop dynamic programs that address students that have challenges, be they academic, familial, etc. An example is the DAPCEP program in Detroit. This is a program that offers help to students that are struggling, as well as those who are high-achievers. It’s goal is to get all students to the point where they can realize their full academic potential.

    The responsibility of the “young Black professional” is to be unselfish. Unfortunately, many do not understand or practice unselfishness when it comes to strangers. There are individuals in my generation who lack the desire to help both others and themselves simultaneously. Many people are good at doing one or the other, but many still struggle with doing both effectively. In my view, this is because we don’t see that helping others helps us individually, and vice versa. If we overcame challenges to become “successful” by however you’d like to measure success, I’d like to think that people one day would not be so selfish as to not be encouraged to eliminate those challenges for future generations.

    I go back to mentorship because I think that it is one of the best things we can do for one another. We can mentor peers as well younger individuals, so let’s not limit the scope of our mentoring capabilities. We all need that sort of support & friendship, as students, as professionals, as elders. We can use these relationships to begin to address most of the issues of today, be it fatherlesness or the alarming number of high school drop outs.

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