I am happy to announce our recent inauguration of the Texas Center for Education Policy that I direct at the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Gary Orfield of the Harvard Civil Rights Project at Harvard University delivered our inaugural Texas Faces the Future Distinguished Lecture. The title of his talk was "Betraying the American Dream: Closing the College Gate."
Dr. Orfield’s presentation examined the changing social and political contexts for access to higher education from the late 1960s and early 1970s and forward. He then examined present disparities in Texas and the nation that should concern educators, policy makers, and the public.
The Civil Rights Era created openings and financial opportunities for the poor. It was also a time of boomer-driven growth of college campuses with open admissions to four-year campuses and affordable tuition rates.
In contrast, today's higher education context may be characterized in terms of declining state and federal resources to ensure access to higher education. For example, there have been significant reductions in monetary amounts for Pell Grants that do not offset the ever-increasing tuition and fees, resulting in unprecedented levels of indebtedness by the poor and middle class. This has resulted in increased access to college aid for middle, rather than lower class families.
Dr. Orfield also emphasized the vast transformation of our population, particularly in Texas. There is a shrinking of the school-age White population coupled with the soaring significance of a highly segregated Latino population and their high dropout and low college-going rates. He cited high-stakes, standardized tests at the high school level as culprits in the reconstitution of racially and economically defined patterns in educational attainment because of their specific correlation to the racial and economic backgrounds of the students that take them.
At the national level, African Americans register 8.8%, 8.1% and 5.6% of all bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, respectively. Similarly, Latinos register 6.3%, 4.7% and 3.2% of all bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, respectively. Dr. Orfield also emphasized gender disparities among those degrees that are awarded. There are significantly fewer men who complete degrees in higher education than their female counterparts. Among African Americans, 66.7%, 71% and 65% of bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, respectively, went to women. Among Latinos, 60.7%, 64.0% and 54.2% of all bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, respectively, went to Latina females.
He closed by underscoring the striking underpresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in higher education. "If this gap is not closed, Texas will have proportionately fewer college graduates." An under-educated public will lead to continued under employment and slowed economic growth in Texas.
More from me/us on all of this. It has been a very time-consuming and worthwhile endeavor. We have big dreams and we feel that we're off to a great start so stay tuned!