This discussion is an introduction of my series on Critical Issues in Higher Education. This article discusses issues related to diversity and equity in the higher education system in the United States (U.S.). Specifically, I am discussing topics on diversity and equity in community college versus a 4-year college, inequitable experiences faced by underrepresented students, student affairs professionals’ role, and lessons for programing within higher education.
Diversity and Equity in Community College versus a 4-Year College
According to Chen (2015), community colleges are a strong competitor to 4-year institutions. Student lately would like to attend community college, due to higher tuition rates and protocol of accessibility to 4-year colleges. Rodriguez (2015) reported that the community colleges in the U.S. “accept the top 100% of every high school graduating class” (p. 17). Community colleges are accessible for student of minorities, adult learner, first generation, and underperforming students when compared with 4-year institutions, particularly elite schools. Ayyad (2015) wrote that “Accessibility remains a bigger issue for [poor students]. Factors such as advanced placement courses, standardized tests and high grade point averages that elite institutions focus on during their recruitments, play a major role in accessibility” (p. 10). This implies that the community college is the best opportunity for students of minorities. To illustrate, Rodriguez (2015) mentioned that “since 1995, more than 80% of new White enrollment have been at the top 468 colleges and more than of 70% of new African American and Latino enrollments have been at the nation’s open-access 2-year…” (p. 19). Although, diversity is increasing in the college campuses, there still is a gap in enrollment rate between White students and students of minorities.
Inequitable Experiences Faced by Underrepresented Students
Roach (2013) mentioned that the enrollment in higher education institutions of “nation’s black undergraduate population jumped by 8.5% and Latino undergraduate rose 22%” (para, 3). These students, however, face many obstacles with enrollment. For example, these students may not be able to continue their study until graduation as they may not be able to afford tuition (Roach, 2013). Underrepresented students still face critical issues when they go to community college too. A conversation with an Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs at a community college revealed a major issue of community college students is completion (Anonymous, personal communication, February 2, 2015). Students, particularly minorities, start and stop school multiple times during their academic life. “The college graduation rate is only 17%,” the provost said. The provost added that since 90% of the students go to work, some students quit to go to a job and others quit because they do not have money to continue education. Following the article by Campbell, Deil-Amen, and Rios-Aguilar (2015), which discussed issues related to financial aid and Pell grants, community colleges are not doing well in promoting equity among students. Rich students have better opportunities to pay their tuitions and purchase their materials on time (Campell et al., 2015). Another issue is that diverse setting of students would require a diverse setting of staff and faculty to better serve these students. For example, the number of Latinos attending community college is increasing, which require finding educators and staff who speak Spanish to meet the need of these students.
Student Affairs Professionals’ Roles
Student affairs professionals play a vital role in terms of enhancing diversity and equity in higher education institutions, particularly in community colleges. Student affairs professionals could “promote institutional change on community college campuses” (Rodriguez, 2015, p. 22). They could enhance equity through educational programs. For example, make sure that all students receive equal support, treatment, and access to educational programs and resources. They need to promote a safe environment for students and help in the learning process. They also need to offer co-curricular programs such as out of class activities to enhance communication and connect students to society.
Lessons for Programing within Higher Education
The article by president Rodriguez is a good example of how the higher education system in the U.S. needs to enhance diversity and equity in their educational institutions. Higher education institutions need to treat people based on their cultural background and must know that “people do not all start at the same place” (Rodriguez, 2015. p. 20). The president recommended that the “way to strengthen equity is to increase funding allocated toward supporting underrepresented students” (p. 20).
The article by president Rodriguez discussed issues related to diversity and equity. The 2-year community college accept high rate of high school graduates from different racial and ethnic groups. Higher education must offer equal opportunity to all students. Colleges, however, need to offer the needed resources and funding to support underrepresented students as they face difficult circumstances during their life.
Ayyad, F. (2015). Higher education and privilege: 21st century issues. College Student Affairs Leadership Journal, 2(2), 2332-4430. Grand Valley State University.
Campbell, C. A., Deil‐Amen, R., & Rios‐Aguilar, C. (2015). Do financial aid policies unintentionally punish the poor, and what can we do about it? New Directions for Community Colleges, 2015(172), 67-76. doi:10.1002/cc.20164
Chen, G. (2015). Why more students are choosing community colleges over traditional four-year schools. Community College Review. Retrieved from http://www.communitycollegereview.com/blog/why-more-students-are-choosing-community-colleges-over-traditional-four-year-schools
Roach, R. (2013, July 24). Report: Steady college enrollment growth for underrepresented minorities, college completion rates increasing more slowly. Diverse. Retrieved from http://diverseeducation.com/article/54837/
Rodriguez, F. C. (2015). Why diversity and equity matter: Reflections from a community college president. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2015(172), 15-24. doi:10.1002/cc.20160