Friday, February 16, 2018

NPR on rural students in higher ed--or not

Jon Marcus and Matt Krupnick reported a few days ago out of Iowa under the headline, "Who's Missing from America's Colleges?  Rural High School Graduates."  The story features Dustin Gordon of Sharpsburg, Iowa, population 89.  He graduated from high school in Lenox, Iowa, population 1,407.
In his sparsely settled community in the agricultural countryside of southern Iowa, "there's just no motivation for people to go" to college, says Gordon, who's now a senior at the University of Iowa. 
"When they're ready to be done with high school, they think, 'That's all the school I need, and I'm just going to go and find a job.' " That job, Gordon explains, might be on the family farm or at the egg-packaging plant or the factory that makes pulleys and conveyor belts, or driving trucks that haul grain. 
Variations of this mindset, among many other reasons, have given rise to a reality that has gotten lost in the impassioned debate over who gets to go to college, which often focuses on racial and ethnic minorities and students from low-income families: The high school graduates who head off to campus in the lowest proportions in America are the ones from rural places.
Here are some sobering data points to provide context for the profile.  While 62% of urban high school graduates and 67% of suburban high school graduates go to college, just 59% of rural ones do--that's all races, at every income level. Nationally, 42% of those aged 18 to 24 are enrolled in higher education, but the figure is just 29% of rural folks, compared to 48% from cities. 

I've noticed the media paying more attention to the rural education gap since Election 2016.  That's got to be a good thing.  


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