To increase large-scale postsecondary and economic opportunity in the United States, policymakers must put the practice and philosophy of equity—the distribution of resources to students and institutions most in need—at the center of policy and program design. Despite many advances, U.S. education has seen a growing disparity between the bachelor’s degree–completion rates of White students and those of students belonging to populations historically underserved in education, such as those who are non-White, who come from low-income backgrounds, or who speak English as a second language.
Since the late 1970s, while the percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees has increased overall, the gaps in bachelor’s degree completion between White and minority adults (for example, Black, Latino/a, and Native American adults) have also increased, as shown in Figure 1. Among adults ages 25 to 34, 42 percent of Whites and 61 percent of Asian-Americans had completed at least a bachelor’s degree in 2018; in contrast, 22 percent of Blacks and 20 percent of Latinos had done so. Differences between states must also be considered in forming policy: in 2017, 44 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 in Massachusetts had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, while in Mississippi 22 percent had done so.
Research on college success has identified four major educational barriers to educational equity.
- Restricted access to high-quality academic preparation in K-12 education, reflected in limited course availability and teacher quality in schools and neighborhoods historically segregated by race and income
- Financial constraints for families with low incomes, and federal and state policies that benefit families with higher incomes (for example, tax breaks and merit-based scholarships based primarily on test scores)
- Limited access to information about college access and success, especially for students who would be the first in their families to attend college
- Postsecondary institutions that lack funding for services and resources to support college completion for students with low incomes (for example, student support services or financial aid)
Implications for policy and practice
- Use equity metrics to assess which populations are not being well served by current policy, and then design interventions for those populations that are attentive to their cultural practices and state contexts of inequality.
- Recruit and retain high-quality educators and leaders in K-12 and postsecondary education who are demographically representative of their student populations.
- Directly acknowledge and address the factors that have caused inequities in postsecondary education, using various forms of evidence.
Read the full article about educational equity by Stella M. Flores at MDRC.Read the full article
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