March 19, 2010
Nonprofits Add Mentoring to Money to Keep Minorities in College
By TRACEY TAYLOR
As college admissions season draws to a close, the spotlight has been on students’ getting a foot in the door. Less attention is paid to how many of today’s high school seniors will emerge a few years down the line with diplomas in hand, and what might cause them to veer off track.
It is much tougher to stay the course in college if you are the first in your family to enroll in college, if you have rarely strayed far from home and if your life is still affected by family problems, be it a jobless parent or an addicted sibling.
At a national level, one student in two enrolling in college earns a degree within six years. In the Bay Area’s most challenged communities, the ratio is far worse. The problem is most acute among young black and Latino men. According to data gathered by the Oakland Unified School District, only 8 percent of black teenagers entering ninth grade will get a bachelor’s degree. Only 34 percent of black male students, and 44 percent of Latino male students who entered the combined University of California and California State University system in 2001 had graduated six years later. The rate for white men was 62 percent.
That statistic, graduation rates, is in the cross hairs of the East Bay College Fund. It is perhaps the most visible of a small but growing number of Bay Area nonprofits that are beginning to make inroads in steering young, at-risk students to college, and also helping them through it. The fund’s method is to supplement financial aid with a carefully administered program of mentoring, peer-to-peer guidance and life-skills training.