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Rural High School Grads and College

Fifty-nine percent of rural high school grads—white and nonwhite, at every income level—go to college the subsequent fall, a lower proportion than the 62 percent of urban and 67 percent of suburban graduates who do, the clearinghouse says. Forty-two percent of people ages 18 to 24 are enrolled in all of higher education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but only 29 percent come from rural areas, compared to nearly 48 percent from cities.

It’s reported by Jon Marcus and Matt Krupnick, in The Hechinger Report. Please have a look.

Here is the weird part: Even kids who have adequate levels of preparation and family income—a safe bet for success in college—choose not to go.

The article gets into possible reasons why young rural individuals with good potential don’t enroll in college. The explanation may include a sense of hopelessness and malaise in these areas, especially since the decline of manufacturing in states like Iowa. Historically there was always a factory outside of town that was hiring, with good wages, but not any more. Perhaps you have read about the opioid addiction crisis, which also proportionately (and counterintuitively) affects people in rural areas more than on the mean streets of big cities. Methamphetamine has always been dubbed the “rural crack.”

An interesting passage:

A third of rural whites, and 40 percent of rural white men, are resigned to believing that their children will grow up with a lower standard of living than they did, a far high proportion than people who live in cities (23 percent) or suburbs (28 percent), a survey by the Pew Research Center found.

This disaffection has been widely cited as a reason anti-establishment candidate Donald Trump won 62 percent of the rural vote in last year’s presidential election, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 34 percent — a much wider margin than in suburbs. In cities, Trump lost to Clinton by a wide margin.

Texas is not discussed in the piece, but we should pay attention nonetheless, with our plethora of rural counties that may be in decline. We talk incessantly about the cultural divide in today’s society, focusing on race, gender, and sexuality issues. But rural areas don’t get discussed much. You can drive through West Texas and marvel (or curse) at the oil pumps, fracking trucks, and wind farms, but many small towns still have boarded-up windows, even at major highway intersections.

Texas community colleges typically offer classes at rural high school campuses. However, as one commentator put it, we are educating these students so they can leave. And access may not be the only issue. The first step is to recognize the deeper nature of the problem.