In his speech to Congress on February 24, 2009, President Obama made it clear that
increasing college access and success would continue to be a top priority, pledging
that by 2020, "America will once again have the highest proportion of college
graduates in the world."
For generations of Americans, a high school diploma provided a valuable education
and a ticket to the American dream. A high school graduate had the opportunity to
get a steady job that paid enough to support a family and launch a career. But now,
a high school diploma is no longer enough. There are millions of young adults —
especially low-income young adults — who have both the ability and desire to continue
their education past high school.
However, they are stalled by limited access to affordable, quality options and competing
demands for their time and energy.
Currently, income level and race/ethnicity can be a bigger determinant of college
access and success than academic preparation. The students who are least served
by our higher education system — low-income, African-American, and Hispanic — are
also the fastest growing U.S. populations.
The number of students from all backgrounds who attend college has increased, but
significant enrollment gaps for African-American and Hispanic students and for students
from low-income families have not been reduced. Nearly three out of four Caucasian
high school graduates will enroll in college next fall, compared to 56 percent of
African-American high school graduates and 58 percent of Hispanic graduates.
Studies also show that the disparity between upper- and lower-income students is
even more pronounced. More than 90 percent of high school students from families
making more than $100,000 enroll in college, compared to 78 percent of students
from families making $50,000 to $100,000, and 52 percent of students from families
making $20,000 and less.
Not surprisingly, these gaps also persist when it comes to successful college completion.
Nearly 60 percent of Caucasian students complete a bachelor's degree within six
years. The same is true for only 47 percent of Hispanic students and 41 percent
of African-American students. Forty-eight percent of college-qualified, low-income
students do not attend a four-year college within two years of graduation, compared
with 17 percent of high-income, college-qualified students.
These statistics are staggering. And as our economy continues to shift, our nation
needs to ensure that we’re producing young adults capable of taking on the demands
of, and succeeding in, a 21st century workplace.
Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation's "call to action" is to help address
this systemic issue as part of our Recipe for Success™
initiative. Recipe for Success™
is designed to enable and empower
youth to pave their own path to success by providing them access to the tools and
information necessary to navigate the process of postsecondary education. Recipe
will support and honor youth working toward their individual
goals while inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.