Compared to state and national rates, Newarkers have fallen behind in pursuing a college degree after high school. That’s according to study by Newark City of Learning Collaborative.

“NCLC exists due to the reality that not enough Newark residents are earning the degrees and credentials necessary to compete for viable employment in our city’s economy,” said Reginald Lewis, executive director of the organization.

The study covered the enrollment, persistence and completion rates of approximately 85 percent of all Newark high school students who graduated between 2011 and 2016. According to the study in 2017, roughly 19 percent of Newark residents earned a college degree or higher, compared to 45 percent of all New Jersey residents and 40 percent of Americans. And now the Mayor and city leaders are determine to change that with the goal of 25 percent by 2025.

“That is 25 percent of all Newark residents holding at least an associate’s degree or higher by 2025,” Lewis said.

“We just have to introduce our kids earlier to college in earlier grades and get them focused on it,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

Supporters of the study say it’s an opportunity to see what’s happening to high school students after they graduate.

“The transparency that the data provides in terms of visibility into how our kids are doing compared to other great Newark schools,” said Ben Cope, chief external officer of KIPP Charter Schools New Jersey. “It gives us a ton of insight into what we can be doing better.

Baraka says another problem is getting students to stay in college once they’ve enrolled.

“Maybe if they ran out of money, what the issues are, why kids are leaving school, leaving the university, and so we need to figure that out. It’ll help us prepare before they get there,” said Baraka.

According to the study’s “persistence findings,” 87 percent of Newark graduates who immediately enrolled in college returned for the next college term, and only 64 percent of students who immediately enrolled in college continued through the second year.

“When I was in high school, a lot of people wanted to drop out because they didn’t find the need to go to school, to go to college to get a job that they could get right after high school, like for example working in construction,” said Erika Baque, a 2016 Montclair State Graduate and a participant in the study.

“I just heard this morning a student lost her mom and said, ‘I don’t know if I can continue, I’ve got to come home and help the family find money for the funeral and then I’ve got to figure out how to find an income to provide for the rest of my household.’ So we see a lot of social, emotional and a lot of financial reasons why students are persisting and that’s our biggest challenge,” Cope said.

The NCLC says it will now hold public conversations in all five wards of the city to get more students in college and to make sure they stay there.


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