College Dropout Rates Highest for Minorities, Foster Youth, Low Income Students, and First Generation Students.

As promised I am sharing my research with those of you who work with foster programs and other orgs that help the disadvantaged. This is only a portion of the paper since much of the research is locally based.

I put some of the graphs from the appendix in here from the national findings.  The stats are sad again but on the Plus side I finally found research that has hope for change and improvement.  That is refreshing.

Extensive research into the enrollment rates and degree attainment of students at Universities indicate that at the national level minority students, low income students, first generation students, and former foster youth enroll in post-secondary education at drastically low levels and that the majority of those who attend college drop out without finishing their degree (Balemian, 2013; Chapin, 2012; Deparle, 2012; Haskins, 2012; Luhby, 2011; Mc.Grath, 2009; Pecora et al., 2006; Radford, 2013; The Chronicle of Higher Education [CHE], 2011; Tough, 2014; U.S. Census Bureau, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). In Wisconsin more minority students drop out of college than their cohorts do at the national level (CHE, 2011).  At UWGB all students drop out at a higher percentage than their equivalent cohorts at the state and national level (CHE, 2011). 

     Data analysis illustrates that in order for UWGB and Northeast Wisconsin to increase the educational attainment of its population, and eliminate the racial and income based disparities within its university system, the university must work to systematically approach and correct the social and educational barriers that lead to the poor college graduation rates of its minority, low income, first generation, and former foster care students.

Statistical Analysis of the Problem


        National Level.  At the national level minority students enroll and are admitted to four year universities at a drastically smaller number than white students (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).

Of the 1,602,480 bachelor’s degrees earned in 2009, the percentage of degrees obtained by a student’s self-identified race was White 72.9%, Black 10.35, Hispanic 8.8%, Pacific Islander 7.3%, American Indians / Alaskan Natives .08% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).  

     In 2010, a national study of four year public and private university completion rates found that 31.3% of all public university students and 52.5% of private university students graduated within 4 years of beginning their education (CHE, 2011) (see Appendix B). Private university students also had higher completion rates by 6 years than public university students (CHE, 2011) (see Appendix C).

     Four year completion rates of students who identified as Black, Native American, and Hispanic, at public (see Appendix D) and private (see Appendix E) universities, were significantly lower than that of Asian and White students (CHE, 2011). Six year graduation rates of students who identified as Black, Native American, and Hispanic, at public (see Appendix F) and private (see Appendix G) universities, were still lower than that of Asian and White students (CHE, 2011).

 When reviewing all the college completion rates between public and private schools (see Appendix H) Asian students are found to have the highest graduation rates, followed by White students, with the other minority students failing to complete their degrees at a much higher percentage (CHE, 2011).

    State Level. The four and six year graduation rates of students enrolled in public and private universities in the State of Wisconsin mirrors the national rates (see Appendix I) (CHE, 2011.  Analysis of four year completion rates in Wisconsin at public (see Appendix J) and private (see Appendix K) universities, and six year rates at public (see Appendix L) and private (see Appendix M) universities show that in Wisconsin all minorities complete college at a smaller percentage than White students (see Appendix N) (CHE, 2011).  Wisconsin minorities complete their college education less often than their national cohort (see Appendix O) (CHE, 2011).

    Green Bay Wisconsin.  In Green Bay, Wisconsin public university UWGB’s students graduate at lower rates than that of students at the private university Saint Norbert (see Appendix P) (CHE, 2011). UWGB students four (see Appendix Q) and six (see Appendix R) year graduation rates by race compared to the four (see Appendix S) and six (see Appendix T) year graduation rates at Saint Norbert show that minority students have a much higher graduation rate at the private university (see Appendix U).  Minorities graduate at lower levels than the White students at both universities (CHE, 2011).

     Saint Norbert’s graduation rates for minorities are comparable to the four and six year completion rates of all races who attended private universities at the national, state and local level (see Appendix V) (CHE, 2011). All races that attended UWGB had a lower four and six year completion rate than students at public universities at the state and national level (see Appendix W) (CHE, 2011). 

Low Income Students

         National Level.  In 2012, 34% of high school graduates from low income families and 79% of students from high income families enrolled in a four year institution (Haskins, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2013).  53% of the college students from high income families and 34% of students from low income families earned a degree within 4 years (Haskins, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2013).  Studies revealed that only 25% of low income students earn their undergraduate degree while 50%-65% of students from high income families complete their degrees (Deparle, 2012; Haskins, 2012; Luhby, 2011; Radford, 2013; Tough, 2014; U.S. Census Bureau, 2013).  Low income students have a higher graduation rate at private universities than their cohort at public universities (Deparle, 2012; Luhby, 2011; Radford, 2013; Tough, 2014). President Obama has declared the small proportion of low-income students graduating from college a crisis and has begun taking measures to correct this problem (Executive Office of the President, 2014).

      Wisconsin. In Wisconsin the high college dropout rate of low income students was recognized by the public university system (Haycock, 2010). At that time the UW-Wisconsin Board made a pledge to implement a 15 year initiative to find new methods of operation that would assist low income and minority students in obtaining their degrees (Haycock, 2010).

     Green Bay.  In 2010, 14.9% of United States citizens were below the poverty level (U.S. Census 2010), 12.5% of Wisconsin residents were below poverty (U.S. Census 2010), in Brown County 10.9% of the population was below poverty (U.S. Census 2010), and Green Bay had more residents below poverty than the county, the state, and the United States with a poverty level of 16.9% (U.S. Census 2010).  Green Bay’s high poverty level may explain why UWGB has a higher dropout rate than that found in Wisconsin and the United States (see Appendix W).

First Generation

Following the progress of first generation college students from high school through college is a relatively new phenomena and minimal studies with consistent measures for statistical and data analysis exist.  Studies presented results indicating that first generation college student’s drop out of school at a higher rate than the aforementioned rates of minority college students and students from low income families (Balemian, 2013; Chapin, 2012; Mc.Grath, 2009).  In 2001, 82% of non-first generation students enrolled in college, 54% of students whose parents had a high school diploma enrolled in college, 36% of students whose parents had not finished high school enrolled in college (Balemian, 2013), and 89% of first generation low income students dropped out of college before finishing their degree (Chapin, 2012).

Former Foster Youth

         The outcomes of former foster youth in the arena of post-secondary education is sorely lacking.  A study into the national post-secondary educational achievements of former foster children (Pecora et al., 2006) found that two-fifths of these youth attended some form of post-secondary education, but only 20.6% of them completed their education.  Pecora et al. (2006) revealed that in 2000 only 2.7% of former foster youth had obtained a bachelor’s degree by the age of 33 which was very low for that decade when compared to the general population from which 24.4% had obtained a bachelor’s degree (United States Census, 2000).  Recent studies state former foster youth drop out of college within the first year and do not complete their degrees at a higher rate than the general population (Day, Dworsky, Fogarty, & Damashek, A., 2011;  Day, Ruebschleger, Dworsky, Damashek, & Fogarty, 2012; Kirk, Day, 2011; Unrau,Y., Font,S.  Rawls, G., 2012).

          When analyzing the low college completion rates of former foster youth it is important to note that more than half of foster children are minorities (Fostering Media Connections, 2012; Hill, 2006; Padilla & Summers, 2011). Black and Native American youth make up more than half the population of foster youth with Hispanic children coming in third place followed by White youth (Fostering Media Connections, 2012; Lansing, 2014; Padilla & Summers, 2011).

Consequences of the Problem

            For the remainder of this document the terms minorities and minority encompass all people who are one or more of the following: Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, low-income, first generation college student, and former foster youth. 

The consequences of the state of Wisconsin having a low rate of post-secondary education completion are that its citizens are not equipped to be a viable workforce for future employment, and it is creating an environment in which individuals will become ever more dependent upon social welfare systems.  By 2020 65% of American jobs will require post-secondary degrees of two years or higher (Lumina Foundation, 2013).  At this current time only 39.6% of Wisconsin adults have a 2 year degree or higher (Lumina Foundation, 2013).  Unless Wisconsin and its municipalities take action towards increasing its available workers to meet this job demand more manufacturing industries and technology related jobs will leave the state due to its inability to provide companies with workers.

     Studies consistently find that individuals who do not obtain a post-secondary education are more likely to become involved in criminal behavior, have poor health, be chronically unemployed, and dependent upon social welfare systems (Alliance for Excellence Education, 2011).  Employers pay individuals with post-secondary education a higher wage and are willing to invest more into keeping that individual within the company (Van, 2011). When an employee is paid a livable wage they do not need to rely on social services such as housing and food stamps to survive. (Van, 2011).   Low wages are linked to mental health problems and a high utilization of social welfare systems (Coffee, 2003; Courtney & Dworsky, 2006; Dodson, & Albelda, 2012; Van, 2011). 

        The price of a lack of education, low earnings, and its cost on society is observable when analyzing the social statistics of former foster youth. Former foster youth have high levels of unemployment (Children’s Rights, 2013; Courtney & Dworsky, 2006), low levels of educational achievement (Blome, 1997; Courtney & Dworsky, 2006; Pecora, 2006; Westat, 1991), a high utilization rate of social welfare systems (Courtney & Dworsky, 2006), and make up 80% of the current prison population (Children’s Rights, 2013; Nunn, 2012). 

     A longitudinal study of the adult outcomes of 732 former foster youth in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin found that by the time the youth in the study reached the age of 19, 90% of the participants reported having had a job within the previous year but only 40% were employed at the time of the study (Courtney & Dworsky, 2006). Of those former foster youth who were employed, 90% made less than $10,000 a year and three-quarters made less than $5,000 a year (Courtney & Dworsky, 2006).  The study discovered that 48.5% of the 19 year old females and 24.5% of the male participants had relied on government assistant programs such as Food Stamps, public housing, rental assistance, TANF, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), emergency assistance payments, and other general assistance payments during the first two years following their emancipation from the foster system (Courtney & Dworsky, 2006).

        Stangler (2013) revealed that the United States spends an average of $300,000 per former foster youth, during their adult life, on public assistance and incarceration costs.  With an average of 27,000 foster youth leaving the system each year (Stein, 2012) the estimated cost that former foster youth, who age out of the system in 2014, will have on the United States social welfare and prison system is $8,100,000,000 over the course of their adult lives.

     Brown County and the State of Wisconsin cannot afford to support the amount of individuals who, in the near future, will be unemployed due to lack of education.  If 27,000 youth who lack education will cost the U.S. $8,100,000,000 over the course of their adult lives, how much will the 60% of Wisconsin’s population who will not hold a post-secondary degree in 2020 cost?

        Phuture Phoenix has been successful in bringing at risk youth to the University.  It is time UWGB move forward in its goal to improve the livelihood of its students and community by taking action towards increasing the graduation rates of its minority students.

Summer Bridge Program Hypothesis and Intervention

Studies analyzing the institutions in which dropout rates are the highest and lowest found that small colleges have the lowest dropout rates (Ryan, 2004; Titus, 2004), universities with part time staff have high dropout rates (Ehrenberg & Zhang, 2005; Schibik & Harrington, 2004), racial minorities drop out at a higher rate in institutions in which there are few minorities (Chen, 2012), and universities that offer Pell Grants and other financial aid that reduce a student’s net-tuition have lower dropout rates (Chen, 2012).

      Research investigating universities at which student retention rates were high found that these institutions placed a high priority on student support programs such as writing coaches, tutors, mental health services, remedial language courses, remedial math courses, resume/career workshops, and summer college preparatory programs (Astin, 1993; Blum, & Jarrat, 2014, Chen, 2012; Day, et, al., 2011; Day, et, al., 2012; Kirk & Day, 2011; Rath, Rock & Laferriere, 2013; Rugg, 1982; Unrau, et. al., 2012).  College dropout rates are highest during the first year and universities which have developed student service programs that specifically target and work with first year students have higher college completion rates (Chen, 2012).

     Investigation into racial minority high dropout rates found that these students, including those who enter college unprepared for the academic load, succeed when they have close peer relations with other students and faculty (Matthews, 2011), have adequate student service support (Chen, 2012) and help from advisors (Gonzales, 2012; Morrison, 1973). One study into the high success rate of the University of Southern California (USC) and the Virginia Common Wealth University in graduating minority students at the highest rate in the nation found that their Hispanic (Nguyen, Ward, Engle, 2012) and African-American students (Nguyen et, al., 2012) benefited by one-on-one interaction with their advisors every month coupled with a restrictive selection of courses.

     Other studies into the causes of high minoriy student dropout rates found that students who drop out of college did so due to a lack of funding for school, a lack of motivation to do well, and a shortage of skills to overcome academic obstacles (Mattison, 2013).  The consistent theme through all research into why students drop out of college show that a lack of connection to other students, faculty, and minimal student services are the main contributing factors (Astin, 1993; Blum, & Jarrat, 2014; Chen, 2012; Day, et, al., 2011; Day, et, al., 2012; Kirk & Day, 2011; Matthews, 2011; Mattison; 2013; Morrison, 1973; Nguyen, et, al., 2012; Rath, Rock & Laferriere, 2013; Rugg, 1982; Unrau, et. al., 2012). The numerous studies linking low college dropout rates to universities that invest time and money into student service programs has led to a national push for community colleges and four year universities to develop more student service programs for their student body with a focus on first year students (Executive Office of the President, 2014; Rath, et al., 2013; The White House, 2013)  In January 2014, the Executive Office of the President took action to increase the college enrollment and graduation rates of low income and first generation minority youth (Executive Office of the President, 2014). 

Published by lifefromtheashes5332

Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I am a wife, mother, gardener, adjunct professor, philosopher, former foster child, former homeless adult and Master in Social Work. My website covers all the things listed above!

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