The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Scholastic advantage can vary by family income

Pablo Estrada, photography major, lives near Exposition Park. It was not always the safest place, he said. Photo credit: Charlie Kaijo / Assistant Photo Editor

Pablo Estrada’s freshman year at CSUN was the hardest school year of his life.

During his time in middle school at James A. Foshay Learning Center in Los Angeles, Estrada’s teachers were eager to help and they cared about their students’ progress, but once he entered high school, the education changed, he said.

“I knew of teachers at my high school who didn’t care about their students, did nothing and didn’t lecture,” Estrada said. “Most of my friends or anyone I knew were not thinking about going to college.”

At Manual Arts Senior High School, Estrada noticed that teachers did not prepare students for college because students were not heading towards a degree, he said.

College preparedness often stems from the quality of learning that students receive during secondary education, according to Linda Bradley, a professor of family and consumer sciences at CSUN. The quality of education is often linked to family finances and school district finances.

“The biggest aspect that you find in research is that students from low income tend to live in low income neighborhoods which don’t have the best in terms of secondary education quality, so the schools aren’t good,” Bradley said.

Estrada’s high school, within walking distance of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Park, was not the safest experience.

“The area that my school was (in was) not dangerous, but I wouldn’t call it safe,” he said.

The Los Angeles Times’ city profile for Exposition Park says that the average income for residents in 2008 was about $34,000, which is low for Los Angeles city and county.

Manual Arts is unofficially ranked three out of 10 in the academic performance index. In 2011, the school missed 22 of 23 federal targets for the No Child Left Behind Act, which ensures schools are performing adequately, the Los Angeles Times’ California Schools Guide says.

Estrada feels that he is now performing better in college since he has adjusted to the workload.

“I think the main problem I was having when I was a freshman is that I wasn’t used to the amount of reading I was supposed to do for college. After awhile, I got used to it,” he said.

While students at schools in low-income neighborhoods may not be well equipped for higher education, students who come from homes with more money are typically more prepared for college, according to Bradley.

According to a 2006 report, “What Matters to Student Success: A Review of the Literature,” socioeconomic status can greatly impact student performance.

In the student success report, a study by Susan P. Choy in 1996 showed that only 49 percent of those who finished high school from low-income households went directly to college, while 63 percent of middle-income and 78 percent of high-income students went directly to a 2- or 4- year school.

“Richer students have access to more resources through secondary education, through extra curricular activities, music classes, dance lessons, participation in sports – all those things that kind of create more engagement with education. It’s not all about what happens in the classroom,” Bradley said.

Financially-endowed families may have the money to live in an area with better schools, and this gives students better college options.

Kelsi Bjorseth, a senior liberal arts student at CSUN, was raised in Granada Hills in a middle to high class home.

“I was blessed enough to go to a private school, so I was very prepared for college. I was given resources that those in a public school don’t have,” she said.

Beyond secondary education, which includes grades five through 12 in the Unites States, a student’s financial status in college also affects his or her education.

Araz Akowab, a junior civil engineering major at CSUN, grew up in a high-income household in Iraq but decided to move to California because of unrest in his country.

Akowab said that education is free in Iraq, and government schools prepare students more than private schools do.

“The quality of schooling is the same, but students at government schools do better than at private,” he said.

Poorer students who attend the free government schooling study harder and succeed more, Akowab said, because they need the education to make a living for their families.

While English is not his best college subject because it is not his first language, Akowab succeeds in the math and science fields.

Beyond secondary education, which includes grades five through 12 in the Unites States, a student’s financial status in college also affects his or her education.

“I talk to a lot of my students at CSUN, and just the financial strain of trying to stay in college affects their studies. If you’re not able to focus on your studies, chances of completing your degree become less,” Bradley said.

While Akowab grew up in a high class family, he now relies on his own finances. If he had more money in America, he would have had more choices in which college to go to, he said.

To maintain the cost of higher education, many students take up part-time and full time jobs. Those with full-time jobs often suffer in their studies, Bradley said.

“There is more stress and strain when a student has to work full time while trying to go to school full time. We can all only handle so much in a day,” she said. “More emphasis is put on trying to make sure you can pay for your education than actually devoting time to learning. A lot of times students are just doing the bare minimum to get by so they can get to work.”

Family support of education is also indicative of a student’s success in school.

“From a parent’s perspective, putting more emphasis on making sure their children have books to read, school supplies that other students do, and using their financial resources to emphasize that education is important, I think, is putting your money where your mouth is,” Bradley said.

Not all the blame can be put on family finances, however. Students should also be accountable for their educational experience and success, according to Bradley.

“A lot of times parents want their students to succeed, so they do the work for them, and they aren’t teaching children how to be successful. Young people need to learn their aspirations in terms of education are based on their efforts,” she said.

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