6:15am

Mon September 23, 2013
Series: Losing Ground

Graduation Rate Focus Brings Education Gains For Colorado's Minorities

Black and Latino adults in Colorado narrowed some of the wide education gaps with their white counterparts last year, according to an I-News analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data.

Credit I-News

Colorado no longer has the largest gaps in the nation in college graduation rates between black and white residents and both Latino and black adults saw high school graduation gaps narrow to their lowest levels in decades.

“That’s good news all the way around,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who also is executive director of the Colorado Higher Education Department. “It’s the result of more focus and more collaboration between K-12 and higher education.”

However, income, poverty and home ownership disparities between whites and the state’s largest minority groups remained unchanged between 2010 and 2012, the analysis found.

An I-News investigation published earlier this year of six decades of Census data found that minority gains made in key economic and education areas had eroded over time. In many cases, the disparities between Latinos, blacks and whites were wider in 2010 than they were in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia
Credit I-News

The latest Census data from the 2012 American Community Survey of states and their largest cities and counties found across the board increases in minority high school and college graduation rates since 2010.

The percent of black adults 25 years of age and older with college degrees rose from about 20 percent to 24 percent during the two years. That narrowed the gap with their white counterparts to less than 20 percentage points compared to 23 percentage points in 2010. White college graduation rates inched up less than one percentage point to 43 percent in 2012.

As a result, Colorado no longer has the largest gaps in the U.S. between white and black adults. It now ranks third behind Connecticut and Massachusetts, the I-News analysis found.

Sharon Bailey, a former Denver Public School board member and a member of the Colorado Black Round Table, said the state’s attention to education disparities may be starting to pay off.

“I do think there has been a bigger spotlight put on graduation rates and remediation,” Bailey said.

The round table is holding a community forum at Manual High School in Denver Saturday on minority education and economic gaps.

The college graduation gap between Latino and white Colorado adults remained unchanged in the new report, exceeding 30 percentage points, and was still the largest in the U.S.

Both Latino and black adults continued to narrow the gaps in high school graduation rates. Black rates rose from 86 percent to 89 percent and Latino rates rose from 65 percent to 68 percent between 2010 and 2012, while white rates stayed at about 96 percent.

Both gaps are the smallest since 1960

However, Garcia said that most new jobs in the state in the coming years will require more than a high school degree.

“A high school degree just isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “When we look at Colorado’s economy, we know that some 70 percent of the jobs that will be created in the next 10 years will require some post- secondary credentials.”

Both Garcia and Bailey said the state needs to step up its efforts on educational attainment.

Bailey said Colorado needs to look at factors behind minority successes and replicate them.

Garcia said the state should work on eliminating barriers to minorities completing college, such as the high rate of remedial classwork, while expanding programs such as concurrent enrollment which allows students to take college class while still in high school.

“We have to do a better job if we want to have a strong economy long term.”

The gaps in economic areas such as family income and homeownership either remained unchanged or widened slightly between 2010 and 2012, the analysis found. Family income and poverty gaps widened between white and black residents, while homeownership gaps widened between white and Latino households.

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I-News is the public service journalism arm of Rocky Mountain PBS. Contact Burt Hubbard at bhubbard@inewsnetwork.org or 303-446-4931.