Truth Fairy says… “Caps and frowns!”

This summer gives us ample reason to celebrate!  We are experiencing national graduation rates at an all-time high.  According to the North Carolina School report cards for 2017, graduation rates are higher at both the state and local level:

  • Approximately 88% for both Asheville City Schools (ACS) and Buncombe County Schools (BCS)
  • The racial gap appears to be closing too, with ACS seeing a 91% graduation rate for white students, and just over 83% for black students.

Despite the improved graduation rates, however, the race-based achievement gap between black and white students in Asheville is still a serious problem.

All North Carolina public high school students who make it to the 11th grade are offered the ACT. Their scores funnel them toward, or away, from the college pipeline.

  • The UNC system’s minimum standard for entry is an ACT composite score of 17.
  • 75% of all ACS Juniors in 2015/2016 scored met or exceeded this score.
  • However, only 34% of black students in ACS reached this standard for admission to the UNC system, while 93% of their white peers did.

The performance disparity on the junior year ACT is stark and disturbing. Though greater numbers of students across races are finishing high school, there is still a significant disparity for black students regarding their options after reaching this milestone.

Why? Because there is a telltale correlation between race and poverty.

  • In Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools, roughly 45% of students designated “economically disadvantaged” meet the UNC ACT 17 benchmark for college entry.
  • Student loans pose another significant barrier. Only 59% of students in the UNC college system graduate in 4 years, adding 1 to 2 more years of tuition and fees before graduation. The national average cost for public, ‘4-year’ universities was $18,632 per year in 2014/2015
  • However, only 16% of low-income students graduate at all. That means that 84% of low-income students who took out expensive student loans leave college with burdensome, unmanageable student loan debut but without a diploma.

Getting a degree is not the only pathway to success, but it sure does help. On average, those with bachelor’s degrees and higher have lower rates of unemployment and higher wages than peers with only high school diplomas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Still, college is not for everyone. Even if you meet the lowest ACT benchmarks, the average acceptance rate for UNC system schools* is only 57%.  It’s a competitive environment. How well you compete is based on the quality of the K-12 education you received. Choosing not to get a four-year degree is a privilege. Being denied the opportunity of that choice based on race or economic status is our failure.

High school graduation is meant to be the beginning of a young person’s potential, not the end.

The race-based achievement gap in Asheville is an educational community crisis because kids can only be what they can see. Success begets success. At OpenDoors of Asheville, we seek to address this problem by prioritizing students of color for educational interventions. Those elevate their opportunity to choose a path in life that best fits their unique potential. We believe that all children deserve the opportunity to succeed.

*Does not include data for the UNC School of the Arts.