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Grades are mixed for Ohio and Pennsylvania in report



Published: Thu, September 7, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



None of the states did very well in terms of making college affordable.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Ohio and Pennsylvania do relatively well in preparing students for college, but both states exhibit wide disparities in educational opportunity based on income and ethnicity.

Just how higher education performs in all 50 states is the subject of "Measuring Up 2006: The National Report Card on Higher Education," released today by the independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Both Ohio and Pennsylvania got failing marks in higher education affordability, but they weren't alone.

Of the 50 states, only seven got passing grades in that category, and none higher than a C-.

The report showed that 11th- and 12th-graders in Ohio score well on college entrance exams, and the chance that a ninth-grader will enroll in college by age 19 has increased over the past decade, reaching 41 percent this year.

In Pennsylvania, that rate reached 45 percent.

Racial disparities

Among 18-to-24-year-olds, the gap in college participation between whites and nonwhites is substantial in Ohio, with 37 percent of whites in that age group enrolled but only 26 percent of the nonwhites.

In Pennsylvania, the gap is even worse, with 39 percent of the whites in that age group enrolled but only 21 percent of the nonwhites.

In Ohio, young adults in that same age group from high-income families are about three times as likely to attend college as those from low-income families. In Pennsylvania, it's about two to one.

The proportion of family income needed to cover net college costs (tuition, room and board after financial aid) at public four-year colleges has grown from 28 percent in the early 1990s to 42 percent today in Ohio, the report states.

Net college costs for low- and middle-income students to attend community colleges in Ohio represent about 44 percent of their annual family income. For public four-year colleges and universities, the number jumps to 62 percent of annual family income.

In Pennsylvania, net college costs at community colleges represent 40 percent of annual family income for low- and middle-income students. It jumps to 59 percent at public four-year colleges and universities.

The United States has long been the world leader in higher education, but has fallen behind other nations in the race to educate its young adults and workers, according to the report.

Challenges standing

"The report card's findings challenge the notion that the American higher education system is still the best in the world," said Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., chairman of the National Center's board of directors and former North Carolina governor.

"In such key areas as college access and completion, the U.S. has made little or no progress, while other countries have made substantial gains. We can and must mobilize our nation, our states and our colleges for success in this global competition," he said.

The U.S. is still a world leader in the proportion of Americans ages 36 to 64 with college degrees but ranks only seventh in that category for 25- to 34-year olds, the study said.

In terms of college completion, the U.S. ranks in the bottom half in the most recent international comparisons, according to the study.

gwin@vindy.com




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