Division of wealth creates gap in graduates

The exclusion of the poor from the higher education system has created an increasingly unequal divide. Achievement from educational success has benefitted a fortunate segment of the population able to afford college.

According to a new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy and the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, in 2013, 77 percent of adults from families in the top income quartile earned at least bachelor’s degrees by the time they turned 24, but 9 percent of people from the lowest income bracket did the same.

This divide is a trend that has increased since 1970, where adults from the top income quartile earned at least a bachelor’s degree was 40 percent and those from the low-income bracket were at 6 percent.

The attainment of a bachelor’s degree creates a distinct line in median weekly earnings. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections in 2013, an individual with a bachelor’s degree will earn $400 more per week than those with an associate’s degree and nearly twice as much as an individual with only a high school diploma.  

The burden of individuals from low-income households is that in order to attain success through education, a difficult task lay ahead.

Sonoma State University’s Education Opportunity Program is specifically designed to assist individuals who fall beneath a certain financial line.

A provided service throughout the California State University system, except CSU Maritime, the program is designed to improve access and retention of historically low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.

Though not guaranteed, a grant from the program, which ranges between $900 to $1,200, is available for enrolled students. 

The Educational Opportunity Club club and leadership conferences are just a few of the community-driven facets , designed to create a support system.

The programs across the state combat a range of issues that may complicate the completion of higher education objectives, including: the affordability of college, domestic issues and the balance of work and school.

Unfortunately, many individuals within Sonoma State’s EOP program will still be unable to complete their higher education goals.

John Michael Vincent Coralde, a student of the program and fifth-year senior, spoke of his own personal story which gave insight into the how hard it is for individuals in the EOP program.  

“Up until today, I am blessed to be a part of this program. Everything that I do at this university, the EOP has contributed to,” said Coralde. “But it’s sad to say that the people I came in with, from the same Summer Bridge program, were cut in half the following semester. And this past year, only a handful of my peers graduated.”

Sonoma State’s Educational Opportunity Program has roughly 550 students enrolled within the program, roughly 6 percent of the student population. 

The majority of enrollees are Latino, which reflects the rise of the ethnic group enrolled in college.

A study by Mark Hugo Lopez and Richard Fry for the Pew Research Center into Latinos achievement of a bachelor’s degree is similar to the study done by the University of Pennsylvania and Pell Institute.

According to the study, in 2012, 14.5 percent of Latinos ages 25 and older earned a bachelor’s degree and 51 percent of Asians, 34.5 percent of whites and 21.2 percent of African Americans earned a bachelor’s degree.

Information from the National Center for Education Statistics provides insight into how much money a Sonoma State student is expected to pay per academic year on average.

Estimated total expenses for full-time beginning undergraduates at Sonoma State can expect to pay $23,295 if they live on campus and $24,572 off campus. Costs drop dramatically if the student is to live at home with family, $11,854 for an academic year.

Fortunately, these figures have stopped a two-year trend of rising total expenses at SSU.  

But this solitary break in increased costs does little to stem the overall rise of higher education since the new millennium.

Between 2001-02 and 2011-12, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions increased 40 percent and costs at private nonprofit institutions rose 28 percent, after adjustment for inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Education.