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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Increased graduation disparities reveal continued racial divides

    Americans will never be equal if nothing is done about the growing racial divide in college education.

    For the first time in American history, more than 30 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau study. But the study also revealed that the lack of education funding has widened the income gap between whites and many minorities, which shows in the differences in college graduation rates.

    There has been an increase in college graduation rates for Hispanic and black students since 2001 according to Census Bureau data. The number of Hispanics that graduated from college increased from 11.1 percent to 14.1 percent over the past decade. Black graduates increased from 15.7 percent to 19.9 percent from 2001 to 2011.

    Whites graduating over the last 10 years rose even at a higher rate than minorities, from 28.7 percent to 34 percent.

    More Hispanic and black students graduating from college is a great feat for the U.S., but the growing gap between minorities and whites shows there’s still a problem.

    Closing the divide between white and minority graduation rates begins with equalizing socioeconomic status. Lower-income families tend to be minorities, and many minority students who graduate from high school have to start working immediately to save for tuition.

    On top of that, rising tuition costs can also be a major deterrent to many minority families who aren’t as financially well off.

    The racial gaps in income and education are closely linked. After all, a degree has always been a ticket to get a higher paying career. The Census data showed that over an adult’s working life, a person who graduates with a bachelor’s degree earns, on average, around $1 million more than a high school graduate.

    Some minority students say having a supportive community in college is a good way to ensure they graduate.

    “We must be involved in clubs and organizations around school,” said Alan Jimenez, a Hispanic sophomore studying public health. “You are only as good as the company you keep.”

    School and government officials should increase funding for groups like the African American Student Affairs and the Chicano/Hispanic Student Affairs offices. Support from communities like these can help more minority students graduate from college, which would benefit everyone in America.

    Furthermore, because there are fewer minority students with bachelor’s degrees, there are fewer minorities in high-paying positions. If only whites are in positions of power, then major social changes will never be made. Diversity in the workforce means people of all different backgrounds, priorities and experiences can supply ideas.

    “If whites have the strongest and highest paying jobs then they won’t hear us,” said Chris Fountain, a black junior studying computer engineering. “We need to be represented in the decision making process. If we aren’t, it doesn’t make us equal.”

    But until the playing field is leveled, minorities must take advantage of the few opportunities — the keys to graduation and success — that are available to them.

    “Yeah, whites have more opportunities, but the point of it all is to learn how to not waste the opportunities that are given to us,” Fountain said.

    Getting a college education shouldn’t be a struggle in the U.S., and as long as there is such a disparity in income between whites and minorities, society will suffer. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said he wanted to increase graduation rates. Hopefully those in Congress will realize that education is not a partisan issue.

    College should be a possibility for all Americans, because every citizen deserves the right to a better future.

    — Luke Davis is a pre-journalism sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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