College inequality: why is four years best?

College inequality: why is four years best?
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Enrolling in college is a respected part of youth in U.S. society. It is often said that the four years you spend in college are the “best four years of your life”, full of the expectation that everyone will have fun in college, study endlessly and “discover themselves”. However, this universal public promotion of higher education can easily feel like an anxious campaign of pressure. Many U.S. teens grow up listening from parents, relatives, friends or counselors that their only chance to grow up “successfully” is to study in college. Those who grow up in a social environment where college is highly encouraged may face issues, responsibilities, or even exclusion if they choose to take a different path.

Despite being perhaps the most widely accepted decision a young adult can make, entering college can be very difficult, especially financially. Just over half students who enroll in college immediately after graduating from high school within 5 years, and the graduation rate drops significantly for students who enroll later. The rising costs college tuition and fees, now averaging nearly $ 44,000 a year in private colleges, are a huge blow to students from less prosperous socio-economic backgrounds. Reached student loan debt crisis levels In the U.S., most, and especially low-income students, have to borrow large sums to afford education. The vast majority of students receiving federal Pell scholarships are those who demonstrate “Exceptional financial need” – graduated from college with more than $ 30,000 student loan debt. The very idea that families should contribute to the cost of studies is not in line with the reality of many low-income students, as these students often working part-time or full-time contribute to the household income of their families – not the other way around. When they enter college, their families lose a source of income, so students are forced to make the difficult decision of pursuing their dream of college or continuing to support their families. By the way, colleges often expect that living at home does not cost students, which is completely untrue for many low-income students who have to be responsible for their share of food, rent, and so on.

While socio-economic status is extremely important, it is not the only barrier to student success in college. Even in controlling income, “first generation” students whose parents have not completed higher education 16% less likely to graduate from college than their peers whose parents have graduated from college. First-generation students are at a disadvantage in a number of significant ways: from the application process to college to the transition from high school to college, and finally, first-generation students in college are not as prepared to succeed as their peers. Scientists argued that first-generation students are not only academically but also culturally disadvantaged in college because they lack the knowledge or “cultural capital” needed to focus on higher education expectations and informal rules. As a first-generation student myself, I can attest to these challenges and how difficult it is to overcome them. Given that first-generation students are also more likely to come from low-income households than other students, they are particularly vulnerable to many of the problems that can lead to college being unmanageable both financially and academically.

The fact that you are a low-income and / or first-generation student can really mean that college is not the kind of tale that is often told by the public. However, white students – regardless of socio-economic status or marital status – have the privilege of having a sense of community, no matter what college they attend. In contrast, black students regrettably under-represented in most U.S. colleges and universities. In institutions dominated by white, black students often reports Feels isolated and psychologically disturbed by race-related stressors such as discrimination, prejudice, stereotypes, and various microaggressions. Colored students, especially blacks, are often experience an atmosphere of racial hostility in their towns, where they are constantly exposed to open and implicit racism. Needless to say, the feeling of isolation and psychological suffering from a racist environment is not conducive to learning; black students from all racial and ethnic groups have the lowest college graduation rate (only 38% graduate in 6 years).

However, the experience of black students with racism in college is not exclusive. A recently published article in Sociology Forum, María Isabel Ayala and Dana Chalupa Young explore the racial microaggressions experienced by Latin students and the coping mechanisms they use. They find that Latin students respond to racial micro-aggression in two ways: externally (i.e., by building a community) and internally (i.e., by denigrating racism or applying a lens of racial perception to assess what happened). These strategies also vary by gender, with Latin students paying more attention to external coping mechanisms, and Latin students tending to assimilate their behavior. Finally, the authors state that “combating these subtle forms of racism will be necessary to increase the sense of belonging of racial minority students, as well as to ensure their perseverance and graduation.”

While college may be the “best four years” in the lives of some students, it is far from a uniform or global experience. Low-income students, first-generation students, and color students face unique challenges not only in entering college but also in surviving to graduation. Undoubtedly, we, as a society, must improve the conditions that stand in the way of student success. However, given that these changes will be slow (if at all), we should also do a service to our high school students to talk more openly and sincerely about the mental, emotional, and financial realities of college.

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