Categorized | Education

Focus on increasing numbers of college graduates


A statewide partnership of Hawaii’s educational leaders has set a goal of having 55 percent of working-age adults hold a two- or four-year college degree by the year 2025 – or, as a state, Hawaii won’t be positioned for competitiveness for the 21st century.

Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education – led by the Executive Office on Early Learning, the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii System – believes that by working together across various community sectors, Hawaii can achieve this aggressive “55 by ‘25” goal through a collective effort of supporting student success.

As part of the campaign, a website has been launched with specific ideas to help parents from the birth of their children through college, for the students themselves, as well as for businesses and community organizations to participate in.

As of 2011 in Hawaii, 41 percent of working-age adults had a two- or four-year degree, according to Complete College America. And the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that 65 percent of jobs here will require some college or more by the year 2018 – a 24 percent skills gap that has alarmed Hawaii’s educational leaders.

Only half of the students who start at a UH campus for a bachelor’s degree will graduate within six years with a degree. Of 100 Hawaii students who enroll at a community college campus, only five will graduate within three years, Complete College America found.

Achievement gaps begin early. One of three third-graders in Hawaii is not reading at or above grade level. These students are more likely to struggle from elementary school through middle and high school and are less likely to attend, or much less, graduate from college with a degree.

Roughly 6,000 Hawaii teens will drop out of high school this academic year alone.

“Starting from a child’s earliest years through college graduation, we need to encourage student access and educational success,” said Karen Lee, executive director of Hawaii P-20. “Together with our partners, we have a sense of urgency about the need to improve Hawaii’s educational outcomes in an increasingly global economy.”

Bright spots exist in this picture, thanks to dedicated educators, parents and students themselves. Hawaii is the only state to have seen significant improvement in both reading and math scores of fourth and eighth graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ Nation’s Report Card, released in November 2012.

Also, more than 14,000 students in the classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 have chosen to earn the more rigorous state Board of Education “Step Up” Recognition Diploma.

Benefits of a college education are clear, including the most obvious: personal income increases greatly with higher levels of education.

Data from the 1992 to 2011 Current Population Survey of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics & Census Bureau shows that total personal income of an individual with a bachelor’s degree averages just over $52,000 – nearly $20,000 more than someone with only some college experience. That’s nearly $1,000,000 over a lifetime of working.

Also, those with a college degree are less than half as likely as those with only a high school degree to be unemployed.

Businesses and organizations can help further the “55 by ‘25” goals both internally and in the community. Within an organization itself, consider setting a goal to have all employees complete a college degree; offer tuition assistance and flexible schedules to help employees take classes and enhance their knowledge and skills.

Businesses can also help by providing internship opportunities to high school and college students, by funding college scholarships, or by participating in the Hawaii P-20 speakers’ bureau to spread the word about the importance of education.

Schools at all levels need help, and company-wide community service projects are another way to help.

From birth until their child’s college graduation, parents are critical in attaining the “55 by ‘25” goals and the website has tips for parents from the first weeks of their child’s life.

For example, beginning at birth, parents should read to their children at least 20 minutes per day. Engage preschoolers in discussions by asking them open-ended questions that encourage their curiosity and passion for learning. Provide children with books and a range of non-electronic toys. Allow them to interact with others their own age. Start saving for college.

Parents of high-school students should review graduation requirements with their child and discuss the types of courses he or she is interested in taking that will help prepare them for college and career. Visit local college fairs and college campuses. Familiarize yourself with college admission deadlines and requirements, as well as potential scholarship opportunities and federal aid. Encourage your child to pursue summer academic enrichment activities including internships.

Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education is a statewide partnership led by the Executive Office on Early Learning, the Hawaii State Department of Education and the University of Hawaii System that is working to strengthen the education pipeline from early childhood through higher education so that all students achieve career and college success.

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