I’m outside Chicago at a symposium on opportunity in higher education, especially in highly selective institutions. It’s a great gathering of very bright, concerned folks who’ve been researching and thinking and writing about these issues for a long time so I thank the sponsors–The Spencer Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Macalester College—for putting it on and inviting me. I’m learning a lot. The luncheon speaker, E.T.S.’s Michael Nettles, in describing the college experience for low-income and minority students at some of these colleges, invoked the T-word (see post below) “The transition from high school to college is tough on a lot of students,” he said, in response to a question. He then noted some things colleges could do to help: “Faculty members taking a personal interest in students—not just in the academic side but the human side,” can make a difference, he said. Helping students more financially, not just with tuition and room and board, but also incidentals. Also, he said, schools could do more to “address the racial climate” because significant numbers of minority students reported in interviews Nettles and his team conducted incidences of discrimination and insensitivity. But he also read from interviews with bright, high achieving students who were utterly shocked at the differences in expectations in college, compared to high school.
Guestblogger Richard Lee Colvin, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University