Reoccurring Themes for Historically-Underrepresented Students

A review of the history of academic access and learning assistance in American higher education validates the following reoccurring themes. Understanding these can help predict future trends and proactive actions to take.
  1. Institutions often admit students from diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds but do not effectively deal with that reality.  Most institutions do not report their academic success with the media.
  2. Many do not place sufficient resources in place to effectively deal with the oppressive and academically-deprived backgrounds of the students.  Many institutions target academic resources for upper division students who have survived.
  3. College admission standards favor the dominant power culture.  Standardized admission tests are culturally biased in a variety of ways to favor of the dominant culture.  This has erected severe barriers for access of students to many institutions of choice.
  4. No significant attention is placed on widespread reporting of college outcomes.  The dropout rate from college has remained at 50 percent for the past 100 years.  There is no significant tie between institutional funding by the state and its rate of academic success.
  5. Educational leaders and faculty members have always complained about the academic preparation level of prospective students.  Academic expectancy always rises mores quickly than the academic preparation level of students.  The creation of admission standards guarantees that some students will be excluded and some will be admitted provisionally and need developmental education.  The quickly growing database of knowledge in the academic disciplines doubles every five to fifteen years, yet the number of lecture periods to deliver the information has remained fixed for hundreds of years.  Since employers expect more of college graduates, increased pressure is placed on college faculty to prepare students at higher levels of knowledge and skill mastery.
  6. While learning assistance activities and approaches permeate the history of higher education in the U.S., it is nearly universally ignored by education historians.  There is little mention of learning assistance, students in general, or faculty members in histories.
  7. While the name for learning assistance may change over time, the need persists.  Some institutions deal with the need by renaming courses.  Harvard University renamed it “Remedial Reading” course to “The Reading Course.”  Later they renamed “Basic Writing” to “Introduction to Expository Writing.”  Enrollment soared.   Other institutions simply renumber their courses to a higher level to make them more politically acceptable to campus or state officials.
  8. Students with learning assistance needs are recruited for economic gain by institutions during times of low student enrollment.
  9. Rising high school exit standards do not eliminate the need for learning assistance.  The College Board was created in 1890 for such a purpose.  The 1970's were dominated by A Nation At Risk Report. Two reasons explain why this has occurred.  The first is that expectation levels by the college faculty have risen more quickly.  The second is the number of students who enter or reenter college after a decade and have forgotten some of what they learned in high school.  The third is that more students enter college from high school (nearly two-thirds) than those who enrolled in college preparation course in high school (approximately half).  And of those students who enrolled in college prep courses, what proportion earned high marks?
  10. Academic enrichment activities, based upon best practices of learning assistance, have been offered at privilideged schools for hundreds of years.  These institutions have used other language to describe their activities and have a campus value system and culture than support and nurture this orientation.