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Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University
The Campaign for Educational Equity OLD
The Campaign for Educational Equity OLD
Fall 2005 Symposium on the “Social Costs of Inadequate Education”
Fall 2005 Symposium on the “Social Costs of Inadequate Education”

For more information call:

October 24th and 25th at  Alfred Lerner Hall, Columbia University

Implications of Educational Inequality for the Future Workforce



American economic competitiveness today is most vulnerable at the post-secondary level, threatened by a combination of racial and economic educational inequities, declining educational quality and public sector investment, and the growth of ethnic populations that trail in educational opportunities and outcomes:

“The traditional educational inequality in the United States is going to increasingly stand in the way of the ability to sustain productivity growth and to compete as successfully in international markets… If, in the 1980s it was the multi-skilled German apprentice graduate or the continuously trained Toyota worker that appeared to threaten the international U.S. economic position, in the new century it is the Indian software engineer and Chinese entrepreneur.”

  • There will be a shortfall of 7 million workers with at least some college by 2012.
  • By 2003, according to OECD, the U.S. trailed Sweden , Japan , Korea , New Zealand , Norway , Finland and Canada in share of young population (ages 25-34) that had completed college.
  • Community colleges enroll nearly one-half of all college students, yet less than half of those initially enrolled in a community college earn a degree or certificate within eight years of high school graduation. Six-year graduation rates at many public 4-year colleges are below 50%.
  • In 1970, tuition and fees paid by students and their families equaled one quarter of government appropriations. By 2001, they amounted to half.

“Students and their families are paying a larger share of the costs of college. Tuition has grown steadily and, even at community colleges, accounts for a larger share of a typical family budget.”

  • Foreign student enrollment in U.S. higher education institutions declined 2.4% in 2003/2004 -- the first such decline in over 30 years. Among the top five sending countries, enrollment from China was down by 20%, India 9%, Japan 14%, Korea 1% and Canada 3%. Foreign students typically generate income for universities and often stay on in the U.S, adding to the educated workforce.

The prognosis is bleak for expanding the high-level workforce with low-income students:

“Black and Hispanic students are less likely to get to 12 th grade, if they do they are less likely to enroll in college, if they do enroll, they are less likely to earn 10 credits, they are less likely to enroll in a BA-granting institution, and if they do, they are less likely to complete a degree.”

  • 20% of white seniors in the high school class of 1972 earned a BA within 8.5 years compared with 39% of white seniors in 1992. For blacks, the equivalent numbers were 12 and 2%; for Hispanics, 9 and 16%. By the 1990s, BA attainment for blacks and particularly Hispanics was still well behind what it had been for whites in 1972.

Furthermore, “Given these growing gaps, demographic trends will make it difficult to increase overall educational attainment in the country.”

The Census Bureau projects a 77% increase for the Hispanic population, a 32% increase in the African American, and less than 1% increase in the white population. Overall, Hispanics and African Americans will account for over 30% of the population in 2020.

  • One study projects that the share of the population with less than a high school degree will increase from 16.1% to 18.5% by 2020.

“Unless the educational level of African Americans and particularly Hispanics can be raised, over the next 20 years, when the economy will require an increasing number of workers with skills learned in college, the country will experience a significant growth in the population that has not graduated from high school… In the past, educational inequality was a problem primarily for those individuals who ended up with low levels of education; increasingly it will be a problem for everyone.”