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  • Is it possible to bridge the opportunity gap in US?
  • Posted By:
  • Willy R
  • Posted On:
  • 19-Oct-2013
  • There is no questioning the fact that our country is now facing a severe opportunity gap. A completely different pattern is evident today contrary to what our country has always stood for in terms of equal opportunities for those who are in the lowest, middle and highest rung of the social ladder. 

    If you take the income distribution chart, children born in the lower fifth have much lesser chance of moving up to the middle class as compared to those born in the top fifth. Getting a college degree seems to be the only way lower income children can hope to beat odds.

    Those who do not take an effort to complete a four-year degree have much lesser chances of moving over to the middle class than those who do even though their chances are much lower than their affluent peers.

    The biggest issue here is that a very small percentage of the lower strata students are able to get a degree especially in the recent decades where there is increased connection between the college-going and parental income. Higher education in our country could really enhance mobility but it is presently not able to do this due to limitations.

    It is imperative to work out a solution for this issue as quickly as possible. Firstly, low-income students must be encouraged to go to college. Opportunity gap must then be narrowed down by financing their education.  A lot of efforts are being taken in this direction by federal administrators and they have enjoyed success too.

    In recent years, there has been an increase in Pell Grant spending as more number of high school graduates seriously plan on getting a degree even while other types of spending are deeply constrained by deficits. It goes without saying that the flaw in the system is completion and not enrolment.

    Before completing their degree, most college students from the minority and poor sections of the society drop out. Staggering dropout rates are being witnessed especially in community colleges which enrol most of the older and less advantaged students.

    There are many reasons for this including skyrocketing tuition costs. Rising cost of tuition is being offset only partially by increase in government funding. There is however severe lack of information among poor students regarding types of aid available especially in selective schools. Low income students are also not able to continue attending college due to family and work demands.

    One of the most important reasons for lack of college completion however is lack of adequate preparation at the K-12 level.  Here again, higher education institutions cannot be blamed for this lack of preparation. A lot of money and time have been poured into offering underprepared students remedial courses at the community college and selective school levels. There is however minimal effort to address the issue of dropout.

    Different postsecondary opportunities are needed by different high school population segments. Students who are decently capable academically must be encouraged to enrol in selective schools while the lesser prepared must be incorporated into the one-year certificate courses in high-demand fields such as welding, computers and health.







 

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