When the working class finds solid ground, families are able to consider such things as owning a home or sending a child to college.

The rising cost of college and languishing support for public education have created fresh obstacles to academic achievement.

Latino and black adults in Pennsylvania graduate from college at about half the rate of the state’s White adults, according to the Census.

The education problems for Latinos start in high school, where 67 percent of its adults graduated — a 23-point lag from the state’s White adult population.

Yet the gap has narrowed to a 50-year low between Blacks and Whites graduating from high school.

But the Census does not separate high school diplomas from a General Equivalency Diploma, or GED, said Davis, also the director of the Center on Race and Social Problems at Pitt. He estimates that about a quarter of the Blacks with a high school education in Pennsylvania actually earned a GED.

“A GED is an inferior education,” he said. “Even those that do graduate, you have to look at what kind of education they’re getting. Most black schools throughout the nation, the students are not on grade level.”

Jomonna Smith received a GED — she dropped out of high school when she became pregnant with her daughter — and she said no one in her immediate family has attended college.




“My education doesn’t have anything to do with what they should do,” she said of her three children in February as the two oldest were undergoing a routine check-up at the federally funded UPMC Matilda Theiss Health Center, where they’ve received health care their whole lives.

“You wanna go to college, kids?” Smith asked.

The children, who will attend 4th and 7th grades in the Woodland Hills School District next school year, eagerly nodded.

“I want to be a nurse,” said 12-year-old Mon’Dayja, who has already been submitting her phone number online to colleges.

“I’ll play football. No, hockey,” Mon’Dae, 9, shouted. The youngest, 5-year-old Mon’Jae, attended a Head Start preschool, which offers child development and education to low-income, at-risk children, and he will start kindergarten next school year.

“I want my children to go to college; yes I do. I want the best for them,” Smith said.

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or
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