Minnesota: a Gap in Educational Achievement
Approximately 64% of Minnesota’s high school graduates pursue post-secondary education. While relatively high compared to national averages, the overall college participation rates mask deeper disparities, especially amongst students of color. About 48% of White students pursue a post-secondary degree in Minnesota as compared to 41% of African American students and 34% of Hispanic students. Moreover, less than a 1/3 of the highest achieving low-income students obtain a degree – a rate almost 50% less than their high-income counterparts. This data, coupled with a diversifying population, communicates a need for greater college support.
Civically Engaged to Create Greater Access
Whether an incoming refugee is beginning to learn English, a parent of five is returning for a degree, or a rural first-generation student is crossing new educational borders, many institutions of higher education across the state are investing greater resources into supporting access efforts for a constantly transforming population. How can we become more engaged in collaborative relationships with our communities to create multiple bridges to higher education?
A Small Sampling of Student Success Programs in Minnesota
College of Saint Benedict’s Fast Forward Youth Program
The Fast Forward Youth Program aids students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education in preparing for college admission. College students mentor high school student participants in practicing for the ACT, visiting colleges, filling out college applications, navigating the financial aid process, and successfully completing their high school coursework. Working primarily with Latino youth, the program is currently expanding its reach to help prepare and encourage a greater range of local 11th and 12th grade students.
Macalester College and Admission Possible – Opportunities Abound
Macalester is synergizing their programs – ones working independently with youth and students of color – with Admission Possible’s efforts to promote the enrollment of promising Minnesota low-income students, many of whom are students of color, into Minnesota’s colleges and universities. Macalester students support Admission Possible’s mission by working with the targeted population in areas of multicultural understanding, mentoring relationships, college test preparation, and the college application process.
Normandale Community College
Their Educational Talent Search (ETS) is a program designed to help low-income, first generation students explore careers and post-secondary options. ETS works with students in grades 7 through 12 in seven partner schools in the southwest metro area. The program emphasizes educational and occupational readiness, and placing students in post-secondary education. In addition, Normandale hosts an Upward Bound program matching college students with eligible youth to provide advising, tutoring, and support.
Concordia College’s American Indian Outreach Center
The American Indian Outreach aims to motivate American Indian middle school students to stay in school by stressing the importance of education, careers, goal setting, and self-esteem while also taking a personal interest in them and maintaining contact through high school. The director of the program says, “my experiences in financial aid made me realize that college is a difficult endeavor for students who may be less privileged,” and now hopes, “that this work will be successful, and prove that it is possible to make a difference” by creating greater aspirations and helping students set realistic expectations.
Bemidji State University Upward Bound
Students begin their Upward Bound experience in a six week summer educational program on the campus of Bemidji State University. Participating students live on campus and take classes that are intended to help them prepare for college. Evening and weekend activities are planned for participants and, depending on the event, may be either social or cultural in nature. Planning for post-secondary education is continually emphasized. Plus, the summer program is cost free to participants. Throughout the school year Upward Bound students are visited by staff twice a month for future educational planning and academic monitoring.