State of Education, Essay Example

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Essay

An estimated 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs in today’s technology company require at least two years of postsecondary education (McDonough, Calderone, Purdy, 2007). Even though a college degree does significantly increase lifetime earnings over a high school diploma, most students and their families expect to incur higher education costs year after year. Rising college costs may be discouraging large numbers of minority and low-income individuals from pursuing college education which will only further widen the socio-economic statuses (SES) gap in America.

U.S. is the most culturally diverse nation on earth and almost one-third of the total U.S. population is of minority descent. Studies have shown that students from low SES backgrounds also perform poor academically due to racial and ethnic gaps, thus, achievement levels among such students can only be improved by addressing the causes. Education experiences in childhood and primary education influence the probability of seeking a college or graduate degree later in life. Many minority students suffered apathy and hopelessness during the periods of racial segregation in America which caused them to drop out of school. The differences in the environments of schools and college can be quite significant and when schools fail to provide necessary support to the students, they also close the college doors to most of these students.

Income, education, family structure, and neighborhood conditions are the four main elements of SES. Education levels in working class are already low and in addition, children from SES are often exposed to higher crime rates, drug addiction, and joblessness in poor neighborhoods. These elements also help explain the tremendous opportunity gap from which many lower SES students suffer throughout their educational experience. Moreover, the cost of attending private elite colleges and universities is about $1,000 a week, the average cost across all private colleges and universities is about $630 a week, and the average cost of attending a public college or university is around $250 a week (Eide, Brewer, & Ehrenberg, 1998, p.371). The average college cost rose at double the rate of Consumer Price Index (CPI) between 1976 and 1996. All of these factors contribute towards low achievement levels and low attendance rates of college by students from low SES.

The quality of instruction has also been declining. Unpopular courses are being dropped due to low demand and the focus has been shifting from teaching of knowledge to teaching of performance skills. Similarly, classroom sizes have been increasing which result in lower interaction between students and instructors. Colleges have also been spending more on support services instead of quality instructors and all of this also contributes towards higher tuition and fees, making college even more expensive for students from low SES.

When parents have a college degree, the probability of their children attending college also increases. Statistical data from 1992 shows that over 80% of students whose parents were college educated enrolled in college directly after high school (Kane, 1994). The corresponding   percentage for students whose parents had completed high school was 54% and only 36% for students whose parents had attained a level of education lower than high school (Decker, Decker, Freeman, & Knopf, 2009).

Even a college degree doesn’t guarantee that students from low SES will be able to escape poverty. Many poor and middle class students continue to struggle to pay their college debt because while paychecks have been declining in amount, cost of living such as insurance, healthcare, housing, and energy continue to rise. Rich students can afford college even without debt and even though poor students do get financial aid, the total financial assistance package fails to keep pace with the rising costs of attending college. It is no surprise that many African Americans youth think they cannot afford college unless they qualify for a full athletic scholarship and do not embrace education as a way of making it in life, believing their only options are music or sports (Micceri, 2008).

Numerous factors help explain the low achievement levels and college attendance rates by students from low SES. Growing up in poverty, they are often exposed to the negative aspects of the societies such as crime and drugs. The effects of racial segregation experienced by African Americans continue to linger as many minority students dropped out of the education system and children from parents with no college degree have lower probability of attending college. The education system has also failed to improve the support system and quality of instruction. College costs also continue to rise at record rates which also discourage students from low SES from pursuing college education.

References

Eide, E., Brewer, D.J. & Ehrenberg. R.G. (1998). Does it pay to attend an elite private college? Evidence on the effects of undergraduate college quality on graduate school attendance. Economics of Education Review, Elsevier Science Ltd., 17(4), 371–376. Retrieved from http://nersp.osg.ufl.edu/~lombardi/edudocs/eide.pdf

Decker, C., Decker, J., Freeman, N., and Knorpf, H. (2009). Planning and administering early childhood programs (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

Kane, T.J. (1994, October). College entry by blacks since 1970: The role of college costs, family background, and the returns to education. The University of Chicago Press, Journal of Political Economy, 102(5), 878-911. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2138651.pdf

Micceri, T. (2008, May 26). Why higher education appears less efficient than it really is to legislators and the public. Online Submission, Paper presented at the AIR Annual Forum, Seattle, WA, May 23-26, 2008. Rterieved from ERIC database (ED504914)

McDonough, P.M., Calderone, S.M., & Purdy, W.C. (2007, June). State grant aid and its effects on students’ college choices. Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Retrieved from ERIC database (ED499423)

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