"We have been reading for some time now about the demographic shift that was occurring in the nation, but I don't think we in higher education have truly digested the impact it will have on our institutions," writes David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, in an opinion article for The Baltimore Sun.
"Two weeks ago, the Southern Education Foundation released a report, A New Majority, concluding that, for the first time in our history, the majority of students in America who are attending public schools qualify for free and reduced price lunches under a federal program designed to assist the lowest income students. In Maryland, the figure is 43 percent, and in Virginia it is 39 percent. And these are two of the richest states in the nation. While shocking to many, this news has not come as a surprise to those of us who have been paying attention. The reason for the concern is that numerous long-term studies show that students from families in the lowest quarter of income are only about one-fifth as likely to obtain a four-year college degree by age 25 as those from families in the highest quartile. And, unfortunately this gap has been growing.
For years, my campus has been warning of the increasing number of lower income students at the elementary and secondary school levels. After all, it is these students who will make up the future pool of college students. Since the mid-1990s, the growth in lower income students, who tend to be black and Hispanic, was masked by the rapid growth in the number of children of the baby boomers, which was primarily a white phenomenon and is now over. As a result, many states are experiencing a downturn in white students graduating from college. At the same time, there has been steady growth in the percentage of blacks and Hispanics within the total pool of high school graduates. On average, these students are coming from families with lower incomes and are less prepared for college than the white students they are replacing. This comes at a time when we have placed a great deal of emphasis on increasing the rate of degree completion in the young adult population in order to improve our national economic competitiveness. Obviously, we will need to make significant adjustments if we are to reach our national and state goals for educational attainment."
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Publication Date: 2/3/2015