By Michelle Chavez
Obtaining a four year degree is a big step economically and emotionally in the United States especially for minorities. According to Mr. Johnson, my current AP Economics teacher, “Being a Mexican in the United States meant I was judged, but that never stopped me from accomplishing my dream of getting a college degree and learning about the economy in a more innovative way”. His experience was not a rare encounter. According to the U.S Department of Education, in 1999 minority students made up less than 12 percent of graduate enrollment, but this is improving as underrepresented minorities now make up 22% of graduate enrollment in 2015 (insidehighered.org).
The statistics motivate minorities to break through the social norm. A college degree is very valuable. For instance, according to U.S News, among millennials ages 25 to 32, earnings for college-degree holders are $17,500 greater than those with high school diplomas. This gives young people a strong incentive to earn a college degree to achieve a better job outlook and higher income.
During the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, Michelle Obama stated, “You have to stay in school. You have to. You have to go to college. You have to get your degree. Because that’s the one thing people can’t take away from you is your education. And it’s worth the investment.” It is important to go to school, but it is more important to actually succeed in school. Going to a school that actually prepares you for the future is very crucial when it comes to applying to college. One school network that stands out in Chicago is the Noble Network of Charter Schools. Students that attend Noble Schools are more likely to apply to college and perform better academically.
With 18 schools around Chicago, Noble schools have successfully increased the ACT scores of their students every year. Mr. Milkie, the founder of Noble schools, spoke about the differences between Noble schools and CPS schools, “It starts with the teachers. We work really hard to get the best teachers. Another thing we do is that Noble schools are really strict. We like to think of it as having a strong school culture, and part of that culture is students behave in a way that allows teachers to teach and minimize the number of disruptions. We thought they could achieve more academically with really great teachers and a good, strong culture in terms of respect, good behavior.”
For example, Apryll Arroyo transferred from Pritzker, one of the Noble schools, but she came back to Pritzker in her senior year.
For my longtime friend named Cindy, who is now attending the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the poverty levels of students have an impact on whether it is possible to earn a college degree. She explained, “Having the ability to be on the upper level of the social mobility curve has an impact on the accessibility of something as valuable as a college degree.” This is still a significant issue as only 14% of low-income college students graduate, according to a U.S. Department of Education study.