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Urban Educational Inequalities: Why the Growing Concern?

By Darryl Irizarry Jr. – July 2, 2015


Education is essential for personal growth and financial prosperity, but when analyzing the way education is administered in both the urban and suburban communities, a vast disparity becomes quite apparent. Visiting some inner-city schools, one can identify clear differences that inner-city students confront daily, like barred-up windows, metal detectors, and overcrowded classrooms. In this type of environment, one may ask: Are these students being prepared for college or the penitentiary? It wasn’t until I began my work with the Boy Scouts of America in a suburb in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, that my eyes were opened to the lack of resources of inner-city youth. The suburban schools that I visited were physically well-maintained, the student-teacher ratio was 10:1 in every classroom, and I witnessed students at the age of seven interacting with the up-to-date technology.


The lack of resources in the inner city has also contributed to a higher dropout rate. The New York Times reported that “the average high school graduation rate in the nation’s 50 largest cities was 53 percent, compared with 71 percent in the suburbs,” an absolute growing concern. Apparently, this issue has been going on for decades. According to an article from 1968 entitled “Inequalities Between Suburban and Urban Schools” by Arthur Adkins of the University of Maryland, “[w]hile the educational needs in the city schools are greater . . . suburban schools ordinarily benefit more from state aid than urban schools.”


Not only is there inequality when it comes to education, but economic empowerment is rarely spoken of in most inner-city schools. Financial literacy that would benefit youth into adulthood and improve the economy overall is not even thought of in the classroom. According to Time magazine, life skills are not being taught at these schools because “[o]nly one in five teachers feels qualified to lead a personal finance class, according to a University of Wisconsin study, and personal finance concepts are not part of standardized tests like the SAT or ACT” and therefore not a priority.


The Obama administration is aware of the growing concerns about higher education. One proposed solution is to make community colleges free, thereby attempting to give economically challenged students an equal playing field with those kids who can afford to pay for college. Inspired by the president’s plan, Community College of Philadelphia has decided to move forward with its plan ensuring that all first-time high school grads receive this incentive with the “50th Anniversary Scholarship.” Dr. Donald Generals, the college’s president, said, “There are far too many students who, even with financial aid, are unable to meet the gap that exists between the financial aid they get and what final tuition would be.” This year the college plans to give hundreds of students the opportunity to attain their higher education for free, providing the foundation needed before they head to their desired four-year institutions.


All students, no matter where they live or their household income, should be able to receive the same opportunities, resources, and attention needed to have a chance to prosper. The objective of the school system should not be to herd our children along and feed them information that will not directly benefit them in the future. The objective should not be for our children to be confined in environments where it is difficult to learn.


The objective is for our next generation of leaders to be equipped with life skills such as financial literacy so they are able to avoid the pitfalls that bring financial ruin to many before they even turn 18. The objective is for our youth to get educated in an environment that promotes education and not incarceration. Finally, the objective is to ensure that our youth grow up in a system that encourages them to seek higher education without the outrageous student loans that leave many in debt for decades after they attain their degree. If we meet the above objectives, then we can contribute toward the upward mobility of this country.


Keywords: litigation, access to justice, community colleges, free tuition, student loans


Darryl Irizarry Jr. is annual fund and alumni relations coordinator at the Community College of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


 
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