ATLANTA — Dramatic changes in population and diversity will increase the challenges to public education in the 16 Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states in the years ahead, the new, 50-state SREB Fact Book on Higher Education 2011 released today says.
More than half of the nation’s population growth from 2010 to 2020 is expected to be in the SREB region, with the greatest gains among Hispanic residents, the Fact Book shows. By 2019, black and Hispanic students are projected to account for nearly half (48 percent) of the region’s public high school graduates. Non-white students will account for more than half of the graduates in eight SREB states.
"These racial and ethnic minorities traditionally have been the least likely to go to college. Unless states help this rising tide of students earn degrees and career certificates, the region could see greater numbers of undereducated adults who simply won’t qualify for most higher-paying jobs," SREB President Dave Spence said.
"More students must be prepared for postsecondary education and workplace training. Our states’ economic prospects depend on how well we succeed in this endeavor," he said.
Putting the issue in perspective, this year the Fact Book provides data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the first time, organized into four major geographical U.S. Census Bureau regions. Since 1956, the Fact Book has been designed to help education and government leaders in SREB states evaluate state and regional progress, and now the new format more fully places the data in a nationwide context. Only one other region — the West — has a higher estimate of future minority high school graduates, the Fact Book shows.
Enrollment rises, but college completion lags
Black student enrollment in college in SREB states went up 27 percent from 2004 to 2009 — topping the 21 percent rate for all students. The number of Hispanic students enrolled in college jumped 44 percent over the period. Despite these gains, black students earned 16 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2009 — and Hispanic students, 9 percent.
The college completion challenge continues. About 27 percent of white adults, 17 percent of black adults, and 14 percent of Hispanic adults ages 25 and older in the SREB region had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2009, the new Fact Book shows. The rate has edged up 3 percentage points for white and black adults since 2000 and 2 points for Hispanic adults. Among SREB states, Maryland had the highest proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher at 35 percent, and West Virginia had the lowest at 17 percent.
Barely more than half of entering freshmen complete their degrees, the latest data show. About 53 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen in public four-year colleges and universities in 2003 earned bachelor’s degrees after six years in SREB states, trailing the national college graduation rate of 56 percent. Six SREB states topped the U.S. rate — Delaware, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
At public two-year colleges, the three-year graduation rate was 17 percent in the SREB region for students who first enrolled in 2006, compared with the national average of 21 percent.
Affordability is a growing issue
Increasing completion rates is difficult as college costs continue to grow. While students in SREB states pay, on average, less to go to college than their peers nationwide, tuition and fee levels at public four-year institutions in the region hit 91 percent of the national average in 2010 — up from 88 percent five years ago. Being closer to the national average, in this case, means being more expensive.
For median-income households ($42,700) in the SREB region, in-state undergraduate tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities rose from 10 percent to 13 percent of annual income from 2005 to 2010. In 2010 they ranged from 9 percent in Louisiana and Oklahoma to 21 percent in South Carolina. The percentages were at or above the national average in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
For the first time, new federal data included in the Fact Book show the "net price" of college — total cost of attendance minus grants and scholarships received. The net price after scholarship and grant aid for lowest quintile income in-state undergraduates at public four-year institutions in the SREB region in 2009 was $5,500, the Fact Book shows. More than half of that year’s bachelor’s graduates left college with a debt averaging $18,700.
The expanded 2011 Fact Book also includes new measures of college completion and affordability, ranging from college credits taken by high school students to time- and credits-to-degree for students earning bachelor’s and associate’s degrees. SREB also will release state-by-state Featured Facts reports with key data for each of the region’s 16 states.
For more information about the Fact Book and higher education data in your state, contact SREB Communications.
The Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB, based in Atlanta, was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help leaders in education and government work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB has 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. More information is available online at www.sreb.org.