Should Students from Low-income Families have Equal access to CollegeEducation?
The question whether students from low-income families have equalaccess to college education lingers in the minds of many people,especially economist and policy makers who have assorted feelingsabout what the government should do to ensure equality. In the recentpast, a trend of reducing the number of graduates from colleges isevident and it is attributable to a drop in the enrollment rate. Thenumber of graduates among the youth increased from below 50% in 1980to the current 85% (Lindsey 453). A study conducted by Goldinn andKatz, the college growth graduates increased by an average of 2%annually between 1980 and 2005 (13). This was a decline from the 3.8%in growth observed between 1960 and 1980. Consequently, the lowsupply of graduates resulted in the wage increase. As an economistwould suggest, the inflated wage level was supposed to attract moregraduates than in the past, but it never happened. Although thegovernment and other stakeholders in education offer access toeducation through subsides, I believe that they are not sufficient toattract enrollment from students who come from low-income families.
The burden seems to lie with the African American and Hispanic kidswho are more prone to poor background that the white children. Theobserved trend in early 2000 confirms that children from suchfamilies have low levels of enrollment. In a study conducted in 2003,about 80% of the students coming from the top 20% of the Americanpopulation enrolled in colleges in the summer after their high school(Lindsey 455). In contrast to this, only 49% of the students from thelowest 40% enrolled in college. It translates to a disparitysplitting along ethnic lines. In 2006, 34% of the youths aged between25, 29 years had college degrees while only 19% of the AfricanAmerican, and Hispanic population had college degrees (Lindsey 455).In assessing why children who come from low-income families do nothave the same achievements as those from middle and high-incomefamilies, scholars have different ideas. Lindsey agrees that thelevel of income in a family and access to education are directlycorrelated (Lindsey 453). The government had increased subsidies toeducation with some Democrats proposing a remedy that caters for alltuition fees. However, the government only caters for part o the feeswhile the students foot the remaining fee expenses.
Besides, parents in the top 20% of the population have resources thatthey can dispose to the educational improvement of their children(Lindsey 18). As Ellwood and Bane assert, the entry to the collegeeducation is dependent on the quality of high school education.Therefore, parents with meager resources cannot invest in tutors andco-curricular activities that have a direct impact on children’sacademic performance (19). They tend to lose interests since there isno motivational factor. It explains why they scoreless on averagecompared with learners from economically endowed families. Mayer, asocialist from the University of Chicago, affirms this idea. In herwork, What Money Cannot Buy, she looks at the role played bynon-basic factors in a child’s education life. According to her,giving children basic education can be an achievement of manyfamilies including a majority of them in the low-income level(Lindsey 454).
However, other motivating factors that do not relate to the families’income exist. For example children in the high-income families havemore to learn from their environment which instigatesthem to pursue higher education. Around them, people aremotivated, and they work towards excellence. Mayer identifies thischaracteristic in the surrounding as an instigating factor that leadsto improved performance (Lindsey 455). Since these children havepeople to borrow ideas and tap motivation from, they do not find itdifficult to enroll in colleges immediately after high school(Lindsey 454). Conversely, low-income families reside inneighborhoods that share similar characteristics. Their motivationlies in securing an early employment and achieving a significantlevel of financial stability. Therefore, students are not necessarilymotivated towards pursuing higher education. Therefore, cognitive andmotivational skills are factors that explain the difference inperformance between the two groups of learners.
Another factor that affects learners from poor backgrounds concerningtheir education is the level of education of their parents. Childrenfrom College educated parents have high chances of taking theirchildren through the same process, and they mostly tend to be theprofessional ones. Most of the parents in the top 20% of thepopulation have gotten exposure to college and advanced education.Therefore, they expect their children to follow suit as a basicrequirement in the family. Therefore, resources and motivation do notlimit such children in any way. Conversely, most of the parents inthe low 40% of the population do not have a history of attendingcollege education mostly due to the poverty cycle that affects them(Lindsey, 455). Since they did not secure the opportunity to get acollege education, they have little acquaintance with it and they maynot be in a position to pass the right information to their children.The social groups that children keep enforce the effect of theparents. Children from well-off families keep friends who incline totheir parents culture that of professional growth and achievement.On the other hand, most African American and Hispanics have differentapproaches to life that is mostly shaped by their culturalenvironment (Lindsey 455). For example, the youths may not first seekcollege education but they strive to secure jobs without anyprofessional experience. The social groups found in their locale areless educated and to fit in them, the youth may shun outlyingbehaviors like pursuing college education.
Scholars and institutions with interest in promoting education amongthe youth agree that college education is the surest way of enteringthe middle-income (Lindsey 455). Every year, hundreds of thousands ofyouths from low-income countries fail to access college educationowing to high cost of tuition. There are proposed several ways thatcan be implemented both by the family and government level to ensurethat the number of youths who enter colleges goes up significantly.
Under the leadership of President Obama, the government under theguidance of the department of education collaborated with leadingexperts in education to identify the barriers to accessing qualityeducation. They also identified various measures that could beimplemented to give the children an equal platform to study andreduce the growing trend of wage increase without a significantincrease in the supply of college graduates.
The first solution that the task force identified was to connect morelow-income students to get access to college by encouragingenrollment and completion. Unlike their counterparts from high-incomefamilies, children who come from low-income families are less likelyto attend college that would give them chances for success inlife(Blackwell and Patrice 51).Most of the low-income students arelikely to choose colleges that do not match their capacities mostlydue to lack of advice on the courses they can take or the expectedcosts (Engberg and Allen 788). Only 8% of high achieving low-incomefamilies are “achievement typical.” That is, only 8% apply tocolleges that match their academic capabilities. They often undermatch their capacities due to lack of information on the availableoptions (Lindsey, 455). Preparing them in advance by giving theminformation on the colleges, they can enroll in as well as waivingthe application fee.
After matriculation, student support services can then act to helpstudents with retention and completion. A major cause of failing toaccess the student support services is because students cannotreceive the services unless they enroll in the various colleges. Onthe same note, scaling up the Expanding College Education projectthat waives fees and provides information can also help in matchingstudents to their appropriate colleges (Ward 2). The ECO projectincreased college applications by 19% and college match by 41% in2013 (Lindsey 455). Secondly, increasing the pool of studentspreparing to go to college can also increase access to equaleducation. While tuition and application fee waivers can attract alarge number of applicants, students from low-income families needmore than the total subsidies (Fack and Grenet 4). The culture thatsurrounds them does not encourage them to apply for collegeeducation.
The problem may be well solved before they attain the college-goingage (Blackwell and Patrice 52). Reaching out to them when still inhigh schools and acquainting them with college information could havemore impact than offering them with support services that they maynot be aware (Castleman Karen and Katherine 2). The pool ofapplicants can be improved through summer camps and enrich programs(Castleman and Lindsay 77). Exposing them to STEM programs andhelping them understand the financial requirement prepares them andtheir parents on application and the possibility of enjoying supportservices. An accompanying fee waiver would benefit a large number ofinformed students through this approach.
Besides, reducing the inequalities that exist in college entrancetests preparation can be a major input in increasing the quality ofaccess to education for low-income families. There is a directrelationship between receiving mentorship and advising and enrollingfor college education. Most of the youths who receive mentorship andhow to pass the SAT scores come from high-income families that canpay for advisors (Klein 21). Providing the disadvantaged youths withmentors and college education advisors will assist them in scoringhigh scores in the entrance exams.
Heckmann, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from the University ofChicago is a bit skeptical about the idea of subsidizing collegefees. According to Heckmann, subsidizing college education withoutimproving the economic condition of the families in which thedisadvantaged youths come from may not solve the problem (Lindsey453). His idea has an intricate relationship with the concept ofBane and Ellwood, who holds to the premise that the greatestdeterminant of quality college education is the students’qualification from high schools (25). The idea of the three author’sholds since there is a strong relationship between parents level ofeducation with the college going behavior of their children. It isnot only a matter of economic condition but also the motivationfactors that lie outside the economic arena. However, as Lindsey putsit, government subsidies exempts a lot of families from footing thecollege fees and it attracts many students (455). Therefore, it canbe regard as the primary factor contributing to increased enrolment.
The variation that exists between children from poor backgrounds andthose who hail from well-up families also boil down to a culture ofsuccess. It is notable that there exists a big disparity in collegeeducation achievement between the whites and the African American andthe Hispanics (Harper and Kimberly 44). A closer analysis identifiesa cultural difference between the two groups, and this highlydetermines their success in education and later life. According toHart and Todd, the environment that children grow in is a primaryfactor to way they perceive their abilities (12). It also instigatesthe lifestyle that they adopt. According to the two authors, parentsand social groups define a specific culture in the family and theimmediate surrounding before children evaluate the adoption of theregional and national culture. In their study of the influence ofverbal communication between parents and children on their academicexcellence and pursuing higher education, the two authors found outthat parents with a culture of spending time with their childreninfluence them positively (35). Therefore, a culture of successhighly depends on the practices that caregivers adopt andconsequently instill in their children.
Also, the two authors found sharp contrasts between the culturesadopted by children from low-income backgrounds. Their immediatecultural contexts do not instigate them to seek higher education, andthey remain comfortable in their cocoons. The conditions that existin the black and Hispanic neighborhoods encourage mediocrity ineducation. The institutions in these areas do not have qualityfacilities as opposed to those in rich neighborhoods. There are alsosignificant dropouts from high schools, and learners join others intheir neighborhood. Drawing from the findings of the two authors, itis apparent that a culture of success is cultivated in both thefamily and the societal domain.
The principle argument of the paper is that the lack of finances isnot the only hindrance to accessing college education. The argumentsought to emphasize that family motivation and the level of parents’education are major determinants. The review of literature fromvarious authors supported the argument. Some schools of thoughtreiterated capitalized on the need for college funding. The researchargues against them by borrowing ideas from the studies conducted byother researchers that present other factors like mentorship, familymotivation and scrapping of enrollment fees as important. There stillexists a significant disparity in college graduates between youths inhigh and low-income families. The audience is likely to object therole played by parents’ level of education on the level of collegeenrollment. However, the statistics that exist show that parents withcollege education have the means to educate their children and theyare also sources of informed motivation. The research found out thatas opposed to the conventional knowledge students can be motivated toenroll for colleges after completing high school, they should beintroduced to the subject while still in school.
Conclusively, there has been a gradual decline in the percentage ofnew graduates entering the workforce and this has significantlyaffected the wages. Against the expectation of economists that theincreasing wages could spur increased registrations in colleges, thetrend has continued. The government and other key stakeholders ineducation have implemented subsidies to attract a large number ofcollege applicants. President Obama’s administration has tried tointensify the subsidies to attract a large number of students but ithas not served to increase the number of enrollments significantly.It has not serve its purpose of bearing desirable fruits especiallywith children from low-income backgrounds (Burkam 381).
Although the government and other stakeholders have intensified theirefforts to subsidize college fees, students from low income familiesrequire more than the subsidy. College financing increasesenrollments and consequently increase number of graduates cannot bespurred using only one method. It should focus on the lives of thestudents even during their high school education and give themmotivation. It is only then that they will enjoy the subsidies set bythe government. The causes of the disparity include lack of enoughresources to cater for tuition, lack of mentorship, poor culture ofeducation, lack of information on the services given in the variouscolleges and poor parental motivation. Scrapping tuition andapplication fees and availing the youth with enough mentors reducethe gap. Furthermore, targeting the youth in high schools canincrease the pool of applicants. The idealization of these measuresis likely to increase the number of supplies if college graduates inthe workforce and usher a big population into middle class.
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