In Los Angeles, the announcement last week made for front-of-the-local-section news. Students at gang- and poverty-ridden East Los Angeles's Garfield High School who meet minimum requirements will now enjoy guaranteed admission to California State University (Los Angeles). The same initiative will also guarantee that students at East L.A. College, a nearby community college, can transfer to Cal State L.A., and the community college will expand its course offerings available to Garfield students.
The partnership between the Los Angeles Board of Education, leadership at Cal State L.A., and East L.A. College aims to create a college-going culture in a section of East Los Angeles where only a tiny share of the overwhelmingly Latino residents have college degrees. Research shows that giving minority high school students opportunities to spend time on college campuses and in classrooms, earn college credits while still in high school, and access mentors and internships—all additional features of the arrangement—makes them more likely to both enter college and graduate.
In the nearly five decades since the federal government began tracking minority college enrollment, college entrance patterns have taken on a new shape. The once-significant gaps between the share of black, white, and Latino students entering college have reached near equilibrium. (Asian students have long enrolled at a higher rate than the other groups.) In 2012, Latino students even slightly outpaced their black and white peers when it came to entering college. Still, a vast gulf remains in terms of who actually graduates with a degree.
The most recent federal data available depict the outcomes for students who enrolled full-time in 2005 and graduated by 2011. During that time, about 69 percent of Asian students earned undergraduate degrees, as did 58 percent of whites. But just 46 percent of Latino students and 45 percent of black students completed their undergraduate education.