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Odelet Nance is Vincennes University’s on-site dean at East Allen University. She wrote this for the Journal Gazette.

Seeking a future of equal college opportunity

Poet Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”

In Indiana, according to statistics, the dream of college completion has been delayed, or not even obtained, for too many black students.

According to Indiana college completion reports, statewide four-year college on-time graduation rate is 31 percent for white students, 19 percent for Hispanic students and 11 percent for black students. Black student enrollment in college is growing, and that is indeed noteworthy, but the retention and graduation rate is dismal and alarming.

Why is the dream deferred when education is a stepping stone for so many improvements in career and financial stability? The community needs to work together to enable our young people to achieve educational degrees; those dreams, when realized, will strengthen the whole community in addressing current problems.

The learning gaps start early for African-American students. It is even more alarming when you consider gaps for this population in math and science.

We are aware of the inequality in both the distribution of resources and educational opportunities. There are large societal issues to address – of social capital, cultural capital and social justice. There have been some efforts in connecting youth to goals for educational attainment and real-life applications. However, some families lack understanding of the educational system, or they do not have the financial resources to support their children in attaining a secondary degree.

Fortunately, there is one scholarship program that results in degree completion. Founded in 1944, the United Negro College Fund administers over 400 educational programs nationwide and awards scholarships to students attending historically black colleges and universities and other institutions.

UNCF envisions a nation in which all Americans have equal access to a college education that prepares them for rich intellectual lives, competitive and fulfilling careers, engaged citizenship and service to our nation. UNCF’s mission is to build a robust and nationally recognized pipeline of underrepresented students who, because of UNCF support, become highly qualified college graduates.

To support that effort, attend the Fort Wayne UNCF scholarship reception Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Indiana Tech Law School, 1600 E. Washington Blvd. There will be refreshments and live entertainment, and you will hear more about college scholarship opportunities and how you can get involved. For more information or to RSVP, contact Ashley Perkins at aperkins@vinu.edu or 260-446-0240, ext. 7502.

Let’s increase our students’ higher-education completion rates by supporting our local Fort Wayne UNCF Scholarship program. A mind is a terrible thing to waste … but it is a wonderful thing to invest in.

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