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Report: American Indian Enrollment Declining at Some California Colleges

Some California colleges are seeing a decline in American Indian enrollment and the state's Native students continue to lag behind their peers in academic achievement, according to a recently released report.

The California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at California State University San Marcos released "The State of American Indian and Alaska Native Education in California 2014," which examines data including the high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and academic achievement of California's Native students. The report found that between 2011 and 2012, the enrollment rates for Native students at the state's community colleges and at the California State system dropped, while the University of California system saw a 67 percent increase in enrollment. That school year, only about 25 percent of Native students completed the requirements for college admittance to the University of California and the California State University systems, compared to 38 percent of non-Native students.

Educators and officials from several state colleges told the authors of the report that declining financial support and "more stringent admission requirements" may be contributing to the declining enrollment numbers. The authors of the report also concluded that college readiness and student retention may be contributing factors. In 2012, California's Native students lagged behind some of their non-Native peers on state exams. Only 41 percent of 11th grade Native students in California scored proficient or advanced on the state English exam, compared to nearly 70 percent of Asian students, and 63 percent of white students. About 43 percent of Native 6th grade students scored proficient or advanced on the state math exam, compared to nearly 70 percent of white students.

Statewide, American Indian students, who make up less than 1 percent of California's student population, also graduate high school at lower rates than their non-Native peers.  In the 2011-12 school year, 77 percent of American Indian students graduated within four years, compared to 88 percent of white students, and 96 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander students. Nationwide, only about 17 percent of American Indians attain a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national average of about 31 percent of adults.

Earlier this year, the Santa Fe Reporter highlighted efforts of several institutions of higher education in New Mexico, which have tried to provide more transition support and financial aid to better support American Indian students. According to the article, American Indian students in New Mexico are likely to face culture shock and financial burdens when they arrive at college, and many come from underperforming schools where they had poor academic preparation. 

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