Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

College Attendance Increasing in the South: Closes in on National Average

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

College Attendance Increasing in the South: Closes in on National Average

Article excerpt

College attendance rates in southern states more closely resemble those found in the rest of the country, according to a new report on the state of education in the region. But while more Southerners as a whole are attending college than 15 years ago, progress in college attendance for students from different racial and ethnic groups have not kept pace.

According to "Educational Benchmarks, 1996," an annual report by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), "Large gaps persist.... Although higher percentages of Blacks and Hispanics have attended college today, their college-going rates are about two-thirds that of whites."

In the fifteen states associated with SREB, 48 percent of adults ages twenty-five through thirty-four had completed at least one year of college in 1993 -- up from 41 percent in 1981. Nationally, 51 percent had completed at least one year of college in 1993 -- up from 45 percent in 1981.

When broken down by race and ethnicity, 51 percent of white adults, 37 percent of Black adults, and 33 percent of Hispanic adults had attended college for one or more years in SREB states in 1993. While the national numbers are comparable for whites (52 percent), there is a larger discrepancy for people of color (42 percent of Blacks and 30 percent of Hispanics).

As more and more students in the South seek higher education, college preparedness has also improved. A larger percentage of high school students take college preparatory classes and admissions test scores have risen.

In 1990, more than half (54 percent) of high school graduates in the South took an academic core curriculum which included four years of English, and three years each of social studies, science and mathematics. Some 38 percent of the graduates also took at least two years of foreign languages as part of a college preparatory curriculum. In 1982, nearly 90 percent of graduates took a less rigorous academic program, with only 13 percent taking an academic core curriculum and 7 percent completing college preparatory work.

Despite the gains, "SREB states have not matched their progress in providing access to college with similar progress in college completion. Only two SREB states. Maryland and Virginia, out-pace the nation in the percentage of adults with associate's and higher degrees," according to the report.

The report noted efforts in Florida and North Carolina to encourage students to pursue degrees within reasonable time frames, as they are more likely to complete them. It also suggests that colleges take other steps to improve completion rates.

"Institutions can improve college completion rates significantly by making sure that when they admit students who are not fully prepared (many of whom are adults returning to college) there are quality remedial programs to bring them up to speed," the report states. …

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