Educators and policymakers from every pocket of the United States have committed to increasing college access for minority and low-income students, but it remains an elusive goal.
Between 2000 and 2016, the number of black high school graduates immediately enrolling in a two- or four-year college remained steady at 56 percent, while the number of white students increased from 65 percent to 71. The data is even more startling for college graduation rates: In 2016, just 38 percent of black students graduated from a four-year college or university in six years, compared to 62 percent of white students.
Oakland, California, has decided to tell a different story. With leadership and resources from the Mayor’s Office, the school district, and partners across the city, a new initiative called the Oakland Promise is re-envisioning how cities can make college a reality for all young people. It’s providing scholarships to children and families at a very young age and actively mentoring students in middle school, high school, and through college, focusing on what it will take for them to succeed. “We wove together a number of national best practices into a continuum of supports from birth to career that we believe could truly shift outcomes in a dramatic way,” says Mayor Libby Schaaf.
The initiative is still young, but it's showing promising results. The number of black students in Oakland who enrolled in a four-year college increased from 22 percent to 36.6 percent, and the number of Latino students increased from 40.7 percent to 47.9 percent — in just the year between 2015 to 2016. [View other data here, including more two- and four-year college enrollment numbers.]