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Report Cites COVID’s Outsized Impact on Black, Latino College Plans

By April 8, 2022COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an outsized impact on Black and Latino communities in Michigan, including when it comes to college plans.

A new report from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative finds nearly a third of Black and Latino students canceled their plans to start college in the fall of 2020, a much higher rate than for white students.

Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said the disparity is reflected in Michigan as well, where there has been an enrollment drop-off, especially for low-income, first-generation, Black and Latino students.

He hopes to see more outreach and support to communities’ higher-education goals going forward.

“Encouraging them to enroll in higher education,” Hurley advocated. “And once they are enrolled to provide them with the financial support, the academic support, the advising support to make sure that they stay in college and complete their degrees.”

The study noted in 2021, the vaccine rollout cut the share of students across racial groups canceling their college plans in half, but the rates for Black and Latino students were less affected, as nearly 45% cited change in income during COVID as the reason for their canceled plans.

Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, speaking in an online discussion organized by the nonprofit Lumina Foundation, noted the pandemic’s effects on minority communities will be felt into the future.

“Enrollment has plummeted by nearly a million students nationwide, with the steepest declines at our community colleges, and among men of color,” Cardona reported. “The impact of this ‘missing million’ could be felt for decades. It can mean fewer opportunities, lower earnings and even poor health outcomes.”

Hurley pointed out Michigan has made bipartisan strides in increasing affordability of community college, with the Michigan Reconnect program offering free tuition to those 25 and up who want to return to school in their community. He added more state funding to other higher education opportunities is needed to reverse the disinvestment Michigan colleges and universities have seen in the last couple of decades.

“Of the top 50 high-demand, high-wage occupations through 2028, 36 of those minimally require a four-year degree,” Hurley emphasized. “The return on investment is there, the salary’s there, the jobs are there. What we need to do now is for the state to come together to make college more affordable, more accessible.”

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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