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Accuracy in Academia, Recent News

Vouchers Boosting College Enrollment

A recent study issued by the Brookings Institution and the Harvard Kennedy School examines how a voucher program boosted college enrollment rates among African Americans. However, according to the study’s authors, the New York City voucher program run by the School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program (SCSF) did not demonstrate a significant impact on participant’s enrollment in college overall.

“We find no overall impacts on college enrollments, but we do find large, statistically significant positive impacts on the college going of African American students who participated in the study,” state the researchers, Matthew M. Chingos and Professor Paul E. Peterson in their research (pdf).

The researchers compared National Student Clearinghouse college enrollment data with information collected by SCSF, allowing them to track approximately 99% of the original students. “Of the 2,666 students in the original study, the information needed to match the data was available for 2,642, or 99.1 percent of the original sample,” they write.

They continue,

 “The original data for the analysis come from an experimental evaluation of the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program (SCSF), which in the spring of 1997 offered three-year scholarships worth up to a maximum of $1,400 annually to as many as 1,000 low-income families with children who were either entering first grade or were public school students about to enter grades two through five.”

“Our estimates indicate that using a voucher to attend private school increased the overall college enrollment rate among African Americans by 24 percent,” write Chingos and Peterson.

While increasing college enrollment is a worthy goal, this measure does not indicate whether the additional students pursuing further education will succeed in college–or whether they will graduate and go on to have jobs and pay their student debt.

As I noted in May 2010, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which surveyed 47 historically-black colleges and universities,

“… found in its 2009 report that, ‘The average percent of first-time full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students in Fall 2005 returning in 2006 was 63%.’ (This number would not include non-degree-seeking students at community colleges who chose not to return.)”

“However, there was a wide variation in retention among the TMCF-surveyed institutions. For example, they report, ‘Howard University retained 85% of their students follow by Florida A&M University at 81% and Albany State University at 80%…’ whereas Langston University retained ‘under half of their students.’”

While enrolling more students at universities and colleges is a worthy goal, we need to make sure the institutions they attend will serve students well enough to give them degrees that provide workforce skills.

Once these additional students get to college, they find themselves enrolled in courses where professors consider popular icons such as 1990’s singer Erykah Badu persons of interest for coursework. Yes, when working at Accuracy in Academia we found a professor who assigned Badu’s “Afro” piece as part of her course:

“The skit, which [Professor Akua Duku Anokye] regularly uses to introduce her courses, recounts a woman’s anger at her boyfriend for rescinding his promise to take her to the Wu-Tang concert. After her mother tells her that the boyfriend went to the concert anyway and sundry calls to his pager elicit no reply, the angry protagonist declares that she is ‘gonna take that hoe back, daddy, yes I will.’ It contains such inspiring observations as ‘You need to pick your afro daddy/Because it’s flat one side’ and ‘Well I be blowing up your pager daddy/But you never called me back/Well I be putting in 9-1-1 baby/But you never called me back, no no’ (emphasis added).”

“Anokye asked the Ph.D.-educated audience how they would react if this piece was submitted as a composition assignment. […]”

Read more at Accuracy in Academia.

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