This and that…

September 22, 2008

What gets in the way…

Filed under: education,Post-secondary,Support Services,Uncategorized,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 2:23 pm

I have been thinking a lot about poverty and it’s relationship to education this summer. Now, granted, much of that is because of the work I am doing in grad school, but even so…the connection between poverty and educational performance is, well, significant would be understating it a bit.  I work at a small technical college. We have about 1600 students altogether, scattered at various sites around the state. We have an active TRiO program serving just over 200 students altogether.  Many of our students are first generation college students, and many of them are low income. Many of our students are both- which poses a unique set of challenges relative to college success. Over the next few weeks, I am going to ponder some of those challenges. This week, a look at some data- taken straight from the Census Bureau via the revised edition of A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne.

  1. In the United States in 2006, the poverty rate for all individuals was 12.3% For children under the age of 18, the poverty rate was 17.4% and for children under the age of 5, 20.4% (Us Census Bureau 2007). At Vermont Tech, close to 25% of our student population is eligible for Pell Grant funding- which means they meet the low income guidelines.
  2. There were 7.7 million poor families (9.8%) in 2006, up from 6.4 million (6.7%) in 2000 (US Census Bureau 2007)
  3. The foreign born population in the United States has increased 57% since1990 to a total of 30 million. In 2000, one out of every five children under the age of 18 was estimated to have at least one foreign born parent. Immigrant children are twice as likely to be poor as native born children. Among children whose parents work full time, immigrant children are at greater risk of living in poverty than native born children. (National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, 2002)
  4. Regardless of race or ethnicity, poor children are much more likely than non-poor children to suffer developmental delay and damage, to drop out of high school, and to give birth during the teen years. (Miranda 1991)
  5. Poverty prone children are more likely to be in single parent families( Einbinder, 1993) Median female wages in the United States at all levels of educational attainment are 30-50% lower than male wages at the same level of attainment. (TSII Manual, 1995, based on US Census data, 1993)
  6. Poor inner-city youths are seven times more likely to be the victims of child abuse and neglect than are children of high social and economic status. (Renchler 1993)
  7. Poverty is caused by interrelated factors: parental employment status and earnings, family structure, and parental education.  (Five Million Children, 1992)
  8. Children under the age of five remain particularly vulnerable to poverty. In 2006, children under five living in families with a female householder and no husband experienced a poverty rate of 53.7%, more than five times the rate for children in married-couple families. (US Census Bureau, 2007)
  9. the United States child poverty rate is substantially higher than- often two to three times higher- than that of other major western industrialized nations.
  10. In 2006, the following racial percentages and numbers of poor children were reported:
    United States Number of Children in Poverty in 2006 Percentage of Children in Poverty
    All Races 12,896,000 17.6%
    Caucasian 7,908,000 14.1%
    Hispanic* 4,072,000 26.9%
    African American 3,777,000 33.4%
    Asian American 360,000 12.2%
    Native American 194,000 31.9%

    *Hispanics may be of any race

    **Native American numbers from 2000 Decennial Census (not counted in 2006)

    Source: US Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics

This is a lot of information to digest- and you may wonder why child poverty numbers matter in a college setting. They matter because these are our students. These are the students, who, if they get to us here in our rural ivory tower, are to be applauded and supported so that they can stay with us. Poverty is an insidious thing and the culture of poverty is hard to leave behind. The only sure way out is want and education. If they get to us, they have the desire. We can help with the rest- but we need to understand the challenge.

Take care all!




  1. While the statistics you note demand consideration, I have encountered many “A” students from poverty stricken homes. More than poverty contributes towards poor academic performances. A perception that students from poor homes cannot perform at grade level may bias teachers’ gradings. Motivation can overcome many obstacles. The tendency of school administrators to substitute politically motivated policies and practices for sound principles of education is far more detrimental to student learning than the issue of poverty. The potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently litter the public education landscape are discussed in the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, available via,,, and Check it out for youself. See if you can identify with the characters and situations presented. Do you agree with the proposed solutions?

    Comment by edbooked — September 22, 2008 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  2. I will absolutely look at the references you provided and I completely agree about the tendency to stereotype. This is actually the beginning of a series of posts. Our Academic Support Service Program is looking closely at the interventions we provide for at risk students. It makes sense in that context to explore the data so that our choices are made on a solid footing. Thank you!

    Comment by learningspecialist — September 22, 2008 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

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