It’s important to not become fatigued about opportunity gaps

By Hermann Pereira

Everyone is feeling the fatigue of all that we have been through this past year. In our fatigue, it is easy to overlook things, but I want to bring something to our attention as a community that is important for us not to get fatigued about. 

Every student graduating from high school deserves an opportunity to move on to their post-secondary plans of choice. In our community we have great higher education choices and growing industries that our students should have access to, but the data says otherwise. 

I would like to bring your attention to just the enrollment data, which shows the rate at which high school students enroll in higher education. The numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center are staggering. It compares the data from the class of 2019 and the class of 2020, remember the class of 2020 is the one that graduated in the midst of the pandemic. 

Overall enrollment in higher education High Poverty Schools Low Poverty Schools
Class of 2019-1.5%-1.6%-1.4%
Class of 2020-6.8%-11.4% -2.9%

In Greater Waco, we have six larger school districts which total 35,000+ students. Three of the six districts are in that higher poverty range, and they have more than 20,000 students. This growing gap in higher education enrollment is a major opportunity gap, and it is only getting bigger. 

There are existing efforts that are looking to address this growing opportunity gap. I want to highlight two upcoming existing efforts:

  • The McLennan County College Access Network is hosting a Drive Thru Event 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 24. The event will be for all high school seniors and their parents to get help with financial aid, college admissions, and enrollment. The event will be held at Communities in Schools, 1001 Washington Ave.. 
  • Prosper Waco and Waco Foundation will begin a comprehensive study on the college and career continuum in McLennan County. We hope to capture who is providing what services to which students and to what affect in our county. At the conclusion of the study we will share results openly with the community. 

Prosper Waco is committed to ensuring all students in McLennan County have equitable access to college and career resources. If you have any questions or want to discuss education in our community please reach out to me at [email protected].

Hermann Pereira is chief program officer of Prosper Waco.

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