Ambition and hope and disappointment

The Chronicle of Higher Education last week alerted me to a Census Bureau report showing that not only is overall college enrollment rising, the percentage of college students who are minorities is as well. In the decade ending in 2003, the percentage of college students who are African American rose from 10% to 13%. For Hispanics, the percentage rose even more sharply, from 4% of college students to 10%.

But that does not necessarily mean more minority students are graduating from college. Over the weekend, a detailed article in the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California explored one of the main reasons why: students are taking college-prep courses in high school, getting high grades, and then discovering that they just aren’t prepared academically. The paper reports on summer classes at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles, where college students are taking one last stab at improving their English skills enough to be allowed to stay at the school. Some of the quotes in the story are just heartbreaking. “In high school, I was a 3.8 (grade-point average) student,” one said. “Now that I’m here, it’s embarrassing—there’s so much I just don’t know.”

The story notes that 8 out of 10 first-time freshman enrolled at Dominguez Hills last fall needed remediation in English and 7 in 10 needed remediation in math. Throughout the 23-campus CSU system, only 43% of the entering freshmen were proficient in both classes. Dominguez Hills president James Lyons summed it up: “There’s a disconnect between what they’re doing in high school to earn that GPA, and what is required and expected at the university level.”

–Guestblogger RLC

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