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Studies show affluent students more likely to earn degree


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Studies show affluent students more likely to earn degree

by Melissa Ludwig

As the American economy teeters on the cusp of a recession, the keys to a comfortable, middle-class life increasingly hang on one peg a bachelor's degree.

The benefits of that degree aren't just monetary college graduates are healthier, more politically active, more likely to volunteer.

They go to plays and they buy cars. They spend more money and, therefore, they are good for the economy.

They also are more likely to be Anglo or Asian than black or Hispanic, rich rather than poor, and, increasingly, female rather than male.

Studies show the most affluent students are six times more likely than the poorest to earn a bachelor's degree by age 24, and women are now earning nearly 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees. More than half of all Asians over 25 hold a bachelor's degree, followed by 32 percent of Anglos, 19 percent of blacks and 13 percent of Hispanics, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For Texas, where nearly half of all public schoolchildren are Hispanic, the low number of Hispanics earning degrees puts the future prosperity of the state at risk.

Nearly five decades after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that public schools be desegregated, the reality is clear: Gaping inequalities still dominate the landscape, split down lines of race, class and, increasingly, gender.

A shocking number of students as many as half in Texas show up on college campuses without the academic chops to do the work.

Too often, poor and minority students are stuck in dismal schools that don't prepare them for college, damaging their chances of earning a degree. Many also are the first in their family to go to college and have to blaze the trail without much help from their parents.

"People who are born into the most fortunate circumstances play a hand of cards that is stacked with aces and kings and queens, and the kids at the bottom of the heap get a vastly inferior hand," said Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. "It's not as if they are dumb. ... They have disadvantages when they come into the educational system."

Most high school graduates these days say they expect to go to college, studies show. Overall, about two-thirds of students who attend a four-year university at any time walk away with a bachelor's degree. But a large number of high school graduates start out in community colleges, and never make it to a four-year university.

Why aren't more students from all backgrounds achieving the American dream of a college degree?

It comes down to what students are learning or not learning in high school, said Clifford Adelman, author of "The Toolbox Revisited," an analysis of a U.S. Education Department study that followed a sample of eighth-graders from 1988 to 2000.

According to that study, taking difficult classes, especially math, may be the single most important predictor of how well a student will do in college. Of those students who took calculus in high school, for example, 83 percent earned a bachelor's degree, compared with 39 percent of those who only made it through algebra 2.

That same study showed that poor and minority students often attend schools that don't offer advanced classes, or that water down the content.

Texas lawmakers are aware of the problem, and have kicked off an effort to weave college-level concepts into classrooms across the state. Still, year after year they grapple with how to equitably fund the state's sprawling public school system.

As schools struggle, so do students. Some face more barriers than others, but trying hard and making smart choices can greatly boost their chances for success. Some tips from "The Toolbox Revisited": Go to college right out of high school, earn 20 credits in the first year, and take summer classes.

For the next few months until the end of the semester, the San Antonio Express-News will follow three local students as they make their way through college. We hope that by putting a face on the statistics, the realities of what it means to earn a college degree and the hurdles that can make it so difficult for so many become clear.

Meet Jonathan Piedra, a Hispanic freshman at San Antonio College; Colin Wright, a black freshman at the University of Texas at San Antonio; and Elise Goen, an Anglo sophomore at Trinity University. They are young, of traditional college age, and so they represent three-quarters of the nation's 18 million college students.

Academically, Piedra and Wright are behind the starting line. Neither took rigorous classes in high school and both must now take remedial courses to catch up. By contrast, Goen took the hardest classes her private school had to offer, and was a lap ahead before she even set foot on campus.

If you added up their chances on a calculator, Goen would be most likely to succeed. But those are just statistics.

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XLDenaliReturns (2/11/2008)
seems pretty obvious.

it's a lot easier to go to college when you've got parents who can support you so you can focus of studies instead of trying to juggle work and school.

On that point, I agree.

On the other hand, its been my experience that those who are footing their own bill to pay for college work harder at getting their degree because they don't have that safety net of a rich mommy or daddy.

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XLDenaliReturns (2/11/2008)
seems pretty obvious.

it's a lot easier to go to college when you've got parents who can support you so you can focus of studies instead of trying to juggle work and school.

There's also another way to look at this.

It takes affluent parents to have affluent kids. And parents who are affluent know what it took them to get that way - an education and hard work. So they are more likely to make sure their kids went to school and actually learned while they were there. They were the parents who made sure homework was done, kids were involved in extracurricular activities, had a stable home life, etc.

To put it in as simple terms as possible:

Rich people will continue to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them rich, poor people will continute to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them poor.

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alfred e. neuman (2/11/2008)
XLDenaliReturns (2/11/2008)
seems pretty obvious.

it's a lot easier to go to college when you've got parents who can support you so you can focus of studies instead of trying to juggle work and school.

There's also another way to look at this.

It takes affluent parents to have affluent kids. And parents who are affluent know what it took them to get that way - an education and hard work. So they are more likely to make sure their kids went to school and actually learned while they were there. They were the parents who made sure homework was done, kids were involved in extracurricular activities, had a stable home life, etc.

To put it in as simple terms as possible:

Rich people will continue to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them rich, poor people will continute to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them poor.

Yet, another good point.

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alfred e. neuman (2/11/2008)

To put it in as simple terms as possible:

Rich people will continue to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them rich, poor people will continute to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them poor.

That is precisely the concept that people who look to government to solve all of their problems simply cannot grasp.

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alfred e. neuman (2/11/2008)
XLDenaliReturns (2/11/2008)
seems pretty obvious.

it's a lot easier to go to college when you've got parents who can support you so you can focus of studies instead of trying to juggle work and school.

There's also another way to look at this.

It takes affluent parents to have affluent kids. And parents who are affluent know what it took them to get that way - an education and hard work. So they are more likely to make sure their kids went to school and actually learned while they were there. They were the parents who made sure homework was done, kids were involved in extracurricular activities, had a stable home life, etc.

To put it in as simple terms as possible:

Rich people will continue to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them rich, poor people will continute to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them poor.

There's probably some truth in between. When you have kids pushed into college by rich parents, the kids are not as motivated and more likely to flunk out because they're socializing and drinking instead of studying. When you have parents who have instilled ambition and the desire to succeed in their kids, plus give them the resources that others don't have, then these kids will be very successful.

Conversely, you have a lot of poor children coming out of failed schools not having the basic skills to succeed at the college level. Desire and motivation can help overcome some of this, but these kids have a much higher obstacle to overcome and much less of a safety net (e.g., they depend on scholarships and are forced out if they don't make the A or B average necessary for the scholarship).

Then you have the whole student-athlete situation that is tied to wealth and affluence. A lot of student athletes spend four years on a athletic scholarship but never graduate because of their grades.

There's no simple typecast of college students at most universities, and both motivation and resources are important for determining students' success.

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gritzblitz56 (2/11/2008)
alfred e. neuman (2/11/2008)

To put it in as simple terms as possible:

Rich people will continue to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them rich, poor people will continute to make the decisions (and pass those decision making skills on to their kids) that got them poor.

That is precisely the concept that people who look to government to solve all of their problems simply cannot grasp.

I have seen a LOT of college students with rich (e.g., $300k + income) parents who were never taught motivation and desire. You might be surprised how many of daddy's little princes/princesses don't give a **** about college and don't really want to be there, but won't dare risk having daddy cut off their $30k allowance.

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no joke!

I recall when I was in school ,I did poorly on several projects because I didn't have access to a computer and a printer, but my teacher assumed that all kids had computers at home. Some teachers made it mandatory for us to have typed reports with printed pictures, which really sucked if you didn't have a printer, something to type on or a ride to the library. One kinda loses faith in their teachers when they are that ignorant.

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Ramen (2/11/2008)
gritzblitz56 (2/11/2008)

That is precisely the concept that people who look to government to solve all of their problems simply cannot grasp.

I have seen a LOT of college students with rich (e.g., $300k + income) parents who were never taught motivation and desire. You might be surprised how many of daddy's little princes/princesses don't give a **** about college and don't really want to be there, but won't dare risk having daddy cut off their $30k allowance.

Yeah, you have to draw the line between the self-made man who teaches his kids the same work ethic that got him where he is, and the super-rich who just hand their kids money.

With the former, you get hard working kids who are productive in society. With the latter, you get Paris Hilton. There's some dividing line between a level of affluence that allows some of life's luxuries and ensures the necessities are never a concern, and the level of affluence that deforms any sense of reality.

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thesouphead (2/11/2008)
I can't imagine the advantage a kid who has high speed internet access these days compared to a kid who has no computer at all.

I wish I had wikipedia and google when I was in school.

Or a rural kid with nothing but dial up which pretty much = no internet. This is how it was for me growing up, I had to drive 45 minutes just to go into town and use the internet because we only had dial up at home. Plus throw in a part time job after school and when are you supposed to be able to go to the public library?

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