Maryland’s higher education system is leaving poor, black and Hispanic residents behind, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Higher Education Research, " Much Accomplished, Much at Stake: Performance and Policy in Maryland Higher Education."
At the same time, the stagnant economy has stalled Maryland’s efforts to hold down college costs, increase student aid and reduce the volatility of state funding for higher education, researchers Laura Perna and Joni Finney of Penn’s Graduate School of Education say in the report.
Maryland’s governor, legislators, colleges and universities have a strong record of working together to strengthen higher education. But, Maryland is in danger of losing hard-won ground, according to the third report in a five-state study on higher education policies and performance.
More Marylanders must hold college degrees if the state is to compete in the 21st century economy, the researchers say. The state has set a goal of increasing the percentage of the adult population that holds at least an associate’s degree from 44 percent to 55 percent by 2025, but, according to Perna and Finney, that will not happen unless the state can reduce its longstanding inequities.
Only 33 percent of blacks and 20 percent of Hispanics ages 25-34 in Maryland hold at least an associate’s degree, compared to 51 percent of white Marylanders. And degree attainment among Hispanics, who represent the fastest-growing segment of the population, has been falling, not rising, Perna and Finney found.
Poor, black and Hispanic school children in Maryland score lower on standardized tests and drop out of high school more often than do wealthier, white school children; those who do attend college are less likely to finish their degrees. Yet, according to the report, Maryland lacks a coherent set of policies to ensure that more children are prepared for, attend and complete college.
The researchers indicate that Baltimore is particularly problematic. Home to 11 percent of Maryland’s population, Baltimore is much poorer and less white than the affluent suburban counties near Washington, D.C. Today in Baltimore, only 30 percent of adults hold at least an associate’s degree, compared with 44 percent in Maryland overall.