Research Minority groups were underrepresented during this period. Access

Research
Problem

Underrepresented Minority Access in
Higher Education

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              The Era of Hegemony in higher
education is known as the golden age (Cohen, 187). Soldiers were returning home
from World War II. The Service Readjustment Act of 1944 later named the G.I.
Bill was initiated to issue soldiers and veterans pay to enroll them in college
to increase the attendance rate (Cohen, 194). Colleges were affordable. The
1960’s gave students a voice. Curriculum was based on student engagement.
Finances for higher education increased and higher education was available for
“some”. Minority groups were underrepresented during this period. Access for
“all” became the focus for this era.

           Access is the main focus for higher
education. Social, cultural, and political views causes some individuals in the
U. S. to be underserved in higher education. Blacks, Hispanics, women, and
other minorities are faced with barriers and challenges as it related to higher
education. Although enrollment rates, graduation rates, and diverse campuses
have flourished, minorities are still unequally represented in educational
access and opportunity. One particular minority group, African Americans are
underrepresented in higher education. The steps taken to increase educational
access in the Hegemony Era were crucial turning points for African-Americans in
educational access and success. There are still gaps that separate higher
education in African-Americans from other minority and majority groups, but
through financial aid, college readiness, support and student understanding,
African-American students can benefit from higher education.

History of Access

   Black students did not have a foundation for
education before the Civil War. Blacks were prohibited any education in several
parts of the nation. Following the Civil War, the Second Morrill Act of 1890
required that states with racially segregated education institutions to provide
land-grants for establishing education for Black students. The new public
institutions for Blacks provided courses in agriculture, mechanics, and
industrial subjects.

    Many separated but equal institutions were
established under federal law. However, the breakthrough case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954), said that
educational institutions were unequal, and the case ruled that this was in violation
of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, setting the
roadmap for integration. However, the act did not specify exactly when to begin
the integration process, that decision would be determined by individual states
(Cohen, 195-196).

             This was no means a victory for Blacks, for
many whites would not comply to the ruling. Southern states governors such as Little
Rock, Arkansas ordered the National Guard to block students from entering; Virginia’s
governor shut down integrated schools; the Universities of

Mississippi
and Alabama governors disobeyed orders (Cohen, 196). Ten years after, the Civil
Rights of 1964 was introduced authorizing federal power to enforce the rights
of all people to vote, to use public facilities, to gain employment, and to
support schools and colleges by providing in-service training designed to aid
staff with problems ensued by desegregation in schools (Cohen, 197). The Higher
Education Act of 1965 made it possible for grants to be issued to Historically
Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for faculty and curriculum improvement,
services for students, exchange programs, and improvements for administration.
Affirmative Action, introduced by U.S. President John F. Kennedy, was then
implemented by President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1965, played a major role in
African-American participation and enrollment in higher education (Harper,
397). If the cost of attending college is affordable, if the college experience
is a feeling of encouragement, acceptability and engagement, and if the faculty
is supportive to the needs of the students, then higher education could drive
African-American students to degree-granting success.

Inequity

            Social
inequity is a unique challenge to our education system as access to educational
opportunity is the key tool for improving socially. For several years, experts
have used new programs and policies, but these intervention methods have not
produced, long-term improvements for all populations. To offer the support of
the educational needs of underrepresented students, policy makers and educators
should face the fact that there is not a just one intervention strategy that
would sustain meaningful and long-lasting improvements. It will take several
techniques and methods that should be started early such as interventions that
educate students with about college academics and financing; offer students
transitional support that focuses on opportunities to earn college credit and
setting pathways for transferring from two year colleges to four-year colleges;
expose students to academic and social integration programs, learning
communities, diversity initiatives, and campus culture that offers the best teaching
practices for students.

            Social inequality is one of the most difficult
obstacles that we face here in America, especially when opportunities and
rewards are given based on diverse social positions or statuses within a group
or society. Our educational system is the foundation of these obstacles which
is perceived as the problem and the solution. The education system continues
these disadvantages through dissimilar access to opportunities and provides the
major tool for social mobility. For several years, policymakers and researchers
have tested new policies, programs, and interventions to encourage the success
of disadvantaged students. While there has been progress, some important
challenges still exist.  For instance,
low-income student enrollment in colleges has increased, however, these
students are still underrepresented compared to their peers of higher socioeconomic
status. Policies, such as the Pell Grant program, used to make college more
affordable, have been important for providing opportunities for postsecondary
education, but has proven to be a failure by not meeting demand or keeping up
with the expenses of college. Furthermore, at some certain institutions, racial
and ethnic minority students have increased their roles in attendance, but
still are underrepresented.

            Despite
these persistent inequalities, literature  to identifies several keys for improving
access and success in higher education for underrepresented students who are
considered minorities or students of color,  low-income families and communities students, English
language learners students, disabled students, immigrants, and those students
who are first generation students in their families enrolled in college.

            Access to higher education is available for all
minorities: military (active or veteran), Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native
Americans, disabled students, and all women. Legislature, finance, social
upheaval, and student attitudes made higher education accessible to those who
took advantage of the choice. Bridging the gap between African American
students and other groups is the higher education issue of today.

The Gap

            There
is a gap between ethnic minority and majority students when it comes to
attaining higher education degrees (Myers, 2003). Racial or ethnic minority students
are apt to leaving post-secondary institutions than majority students. This is
a significant, on-going problem for an increasing number of minority students
in grades K–12 and these students are seemingly not entering or graduating from
college (Keller, 2001).

            This
gap between underserved minority students and other groups is particularly
critical because it has an affect long-term social mobility. The attainment of
a baccalaureate degree or any postsecondary degree usually ends in a greater
pay for minority populations (Malveaux, 2003).

            These
statistics stresses the important need of understanding retention problems, as
it related to underserved students. Knowledge of understanding student
retention is not limited to campus leaders, educators, and researchers, but
also to society. Several years ago, Stewart (1988) proposed that the urgent
concern in higher education dealt with the participation and retention of
minority students in higher education. This problem still exists today.

            The
purpose of this paper is to identify and describe a problem for an action
research proposal to discuss a study of minority college student access and
retention issues, review important material that is pertinent to comprehending
retention issues for underrepresented African-American students, and to
discussion suggestions for future research.

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