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Higher Education Needs to Learn Racial, Economic Equity


The following article originally appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on September 7, 2018.

By Sameer Gadkaree, Senior Program Officer, Education & Economic Mobility

For my family, as for millions of others, the fabric of prosperity was woven with college degrees. My dad immigrated from India to get a doctorate in engineering; he stayed because it helped him get a job and visa. My mother and my grandparents sought out education as the path to a better life. And from a young age, they impressed the importance of a college degree on my brother and me.

Today, a bachelor’s degree is increasingly a prerequisite for a stable job with a salary that can support a family. Estimates suggest that will become even more true as technology and automation continue to transform our nation’s economy. That’s why glaring inequities between students of different races and family income backgrounds in earning a bachelor’s degree are so deeply troubling. While all groups are more likely to hold those degrees now than in the past, the gaps between groups are widening.

If higher education equity means Latino and black students should earn bachelor’s degrees at the same rate as white students, we are further from that goal than we were in 1980. Indeed, those gaps have widened.

If higher education equity means top colleges, including public institutions, should reflect the racial composition of graduating high school classes in their states or the nation, we are further from that goal than we were in 1980.

If college degrees should be a measure of intellectual ability rather than family income, youth today are further from that goal than past generations. Gaps in bachelor’s degree attainment between rich and poor have widened and richer students with low GPAs are more likely to attend college than poorer students with higher GPAs.

Why are those gaps widening? Higher education remains the best way for a low-income student to climb the economic ladder, but the way we fund colleges is deepening inequality.

Read the full article here.