This past spring, the College Success Foundation released the results of a study that looked at how well Washington’s high school students are doing in progressing toward high school graduation and their success in making it into college. As a state, we are lagging the national average:
- Washington has a lower-than-national high school graduation rate of 69% versus 71%
- The four-year high school graduation rate for white students in Washington is 72%; for Latino students it’s 57% and for African American students it’s 52%
- Washington’s college-going rate of 48% for high school graduates immediately starting college is lower than the national rate of 61.6%
- For 18-24 year olds in Washington just 29.2% are enrolled in college compared to 33.9% nationwide
For an economy like Washington’s where the future job growth is dependent on an educated and high-skilled workforce, these numbers are troubling. And with the projected growth among students of color among the college-going age group over the next decade the gap in college attendance between Caucasian and Asian American students on the one hand and African American, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander students on the other has the potential to have a significant impact on this state’s economic future.
Recently, the UW released a profile of our new freshman class. There was nearly a 7% growth in the number of freshman applicants but due to state funding cuts this year’s freshman class is about 4% smaller than last year. Looking at the number of under-represented minority students, this year’s freshman class has an all-time record number of Latino students (330 up from 320 last year) and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students (45 up from 42) an increase in the number of Native American students (75 up from 71) but a four-year record low in the number of African American freshman (134 down from 179 last year).
At the Foster School of Business we focus on the total number of under-represented minority students at the undergraduate level. This year we have:
- 70 Latino students (a record high)
- 39 African American students (a slight increase from last year)
- 13 Native American students (a slight increase from last year)
- 533 Asian/Pacific Islander students (a record high)
But what’s most exciting to me is the growing pipeline of under-represented minority students we are building. For decades the Foster School has worked with the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD) and we continue to do so. But recognizing that business continues to be the most popular undergraduate major we’ve felt a special need to build programs that complement OMAD’s work and insure that the next generation of business leaders reflect the diversity of Washington State. That is why I’m very excited about the symbiotic relationship between the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) and the Undergraduate Diversity Services (UDS) office.
At the 2001, UW Minority Business of the Year Awards the BEDC raised funds to award the first scholarships (we call them BEDC Fellowships) to students of color at the business school. In the fall of 2002, under the leadership of the UDS, these BEDC Fellows began to mentor and tutor high school students of color to help them prepare to go to college. Since 2002, individuals and companies who have attended the UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet have donated $170,000 in scholarships to 68 students of color at the Foster School of Business.
In 2006, UDS altered this high school program to become the Young Executives of Color (YEOC). This nine-month program has brought 247 high school students to the Foster School of Business between 2006 and 2009. Last year, there were 37 high school seniors who completed YEOC and 35 of them were offered admission to four-year colleges and universities and two were offered admission at community colleges. We’re excited that 13 of these students are enrolled at the UW and are getting in line to apply to come to the Foster School when it’s their turn to declare a major.
This year, we are witnessing a significant change in the YEOC program. Thanks to a three-year $75,000 commitment from Ernst & Young, this program will be able to support 100-125 high school students each year – a tripling of the number of students we can reach.
But now the leaders of the YEOC have come back to the BEDC with a challenge. The eight BEDC Fellows are being stretched to the limit as they work with our YEOC high school students. We need to increase the number of BEDC Fellows from 8 to 10 which means we need to raise at least $25,000 in scholarship funds at our December 10 UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet. In this economy that will be a steep challenge, but we’re confident that our 550 guests will be able to help us reach this goal. After all, our state’s economy depends on having an educated work force and what better way to do that than to increase the college-going rate for the state’s fastest-growing population groups.
I hope to see you all there on December 10.
By Michael Verchot, director of the UW Business and Economic Development Center