U.S. Graduation Rates Have Risen, but Not for All Students

The high school graduation rate has been on a steady incline for years, so much so, that recent studies indicate that nearly 82 percent of high school seniors earned their diploma during the 2013-2014 school year. As a result of increased high school graduation rates, college attendance has also risen, which helped to fulfill a primary goal of the previous administration.

Despite the increased numbers of college going students, many colleges and universities have failed to make a serious dent when it comes to achievement gaps between white students and minorities.

According to a December 2015 study from The Education Trust, minority graduation rates have increased by less than one percentage point (now at 50 percent) over the course of a decade. In comparison, white students, have a college graduation rate of nearly 65 percent.

This is a statistic that educational leaders and policymakers should pay close attention to, as it is a strong indicator that low-income and students who are of ethnic minority status are not receiving the necessary support to enroll in postsecondary programs, and subsequently graduate from those programs.

“We caution institutional leaders who celebrate their graduation rate gains to take a look at their data and ask whether they are doing enough to get more African-American, Latino, and Native students to graduation and to close completion gaps,” higher education policy analyst Kimberlee Eberle-Sudre told US News.

It is evident that there needs to be a radical shift when it comes to minority enrollment in colleges across the country, and solutions need to be implemented at the high school and at the college level. Not only does a college education promote economic equity for minority students, but promoting minority graduation rates will also help to diversify the U.S. workforce.

“Diversity and inclusion is no longer just a numbers game, nor just another politically correct workplace initiative; it’s about bridging the opportunity gaps that will continue to widen if we continue to ignore the message the marketplace is clearly telling us: that it’s becoming less about the business defining the individual and much more about the individual defining the business,” Forbes author Glenn Llopis writes. “As such, American enterprise must adopt D&I as a strategy for growth if they are to compete in the 21st century.”

There’s a strong case to be made for diversity in the workforce. A number of companies have created policies to diversify their work populace, and have made significant efforts to hire and promote more women, and work with multigenerational staff.

An increase in educational attainment for minorities and those of a previously lower economic status will only continue to benefit the American workforce. Minorities help promote cultural awareness in their chosen career field, provide valuable new perspectives, and come to the table with different life experiences that only benefit the companies they work for.  

As far as solutions go, The University of Arizona study highly recommends that public school teachers be better trained to meet the cultural needs of their minority students, especially those that come from an ESL background.

Other solutions may be as simple as employing an additional number of counselors. An article published on Wake Forest University’s website suggests that by reducing student-to-counselor ratio, college-going rates can increase by up to ten percent.

Increasing minority enrollment and graduation rates in college environments is obviously complicated multi-tiered process, where numerous levels of administration need to get involved in order to prioritize diversity in their enrollment process, and provide enough support to keep students in the education system.
In an economy that relies on diversity and inclusion, it’s important that minorities are given equal opportunity and adequate support to continue on in their educational journey, as they have become crucial to advancement in today’s workforce.

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