American higher education is an important part of the educational process in the United States, which requires a thorough analysis and assessment in regards to its advantages and problems. In addition, higher education, despite its significant efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity, still remains inaccessible and non-accommodative for certain vulnerable groups, such as Latino students and students with disabilities. The majority of issues in American higher education are rooted in its inflated tuition cost and lack of accommodations for students with special needs. Community colleges might be the answer for the ones, who lack the funds and means to enter the traditional colleges, but they are also poorly accessible for the identified two groups. Latino students with immigrant backgrounds are unable to utilize the assistance programs due to a fear of deportation, whereas students with disabilities cannot benefit from free education due to the lack of basic arrangements for their learning needs. Both groups need help, guidance, and support from educational leaders and counseling experts when entering the higher education system, as well as choosing future directions, such as major selection. The latter will require extensive training and competence increase from these specialists in order to ensure that inclusivity of higher education includes these groups as well.
It is important to note that higher education in the United States is among the most distinct and prominent forms in the globe. The given critical analysis will mainly focus on Latino students, especially students with special needs. The current state of the US higher education is in a unique position with a range of exemplary achievements and benefits as well as deeply profound disadvantages and issues. In general, higher education in the United States is a non-mandatory step in the formal learning process, which is designed to create highly skilled professionals and experts ready to take on more advanced positions in the labor market. Although the system made significant efforts to accommodate a wide range of students with diverse backgrounds, it should be noted that equity for students with disabilities and minorities is still not achieved to the desired level.
Overview of Higher Education in America
The development of the US higher education system is characterized by significant multifactorial and spontaneous development, as well as the presence of various contradictory trends and significant decentralization. The US higher education is currently recognized as one of the leading higher education systems in the world, and its universities traditionally occupy leading positions in various world rankings. Such a system has brought up a significant number of Nobel laureates, is the leader in the number of international students studying, and has impressive sources of funding (Thelin, 2019). In many countries, the higher education system as a whole or its individual elements are perceived as a promising model for the development of national higher education.
The history of the development of the highest school in the United States shows that this is a highly productive path since its formation took place under significant foreign influence, primarily the models of British and German universities. The theoretical substantiation of the development of higher education in the United States is socio-political concepts, both traditional and the latest. These are due to the processes of the scientific and technological revolution, globalization, the formation of pluralistic democracy, the inclusion of the university as a cornerstone element of the socialization of the individual, and the construction of a new technocratic society (Thelin, 2019). The core idea of American theoretical thought in relation to higher education is the idea of its democratization, which Americans associate, first of all, with the diversity of institutions of higher education, academic freedom, and accessibility to large segments of the population. The idea of democratization is due to the very history of the emergence of American statehood, based on the principles of equality and freedom.
Pros and Cons of Higher Education in The United States
Higher education in the United States has a number of key advantages compared to other international alternatives. Firstly, such a system offers validity and legitimacy of an acquired degree, which can be used across the globe due to the prestige and global exposure of educational institutions. In other words, a degree from an American university can be used to get employment in any corner of the world. Secondly, American higher education is highly flexible in its nature due to its inherent design to accommodate in accordance with a student’s needs (Thelin, 2019). Thirdly, diversity and inclusion are among the most prominent benefits of American higher education, which is open to any form of ideas and discourse with no discrimination against groups. Fourthly, technology and career support are the most advanced among the US educational facilities due to better financing and partnerships with leading enterprises (Thelin, 2019). In other words, the American system of higher education provides and allocates the necessary resources to create proper educational conditions in which students can enhance their learning and facilitate development.
Despite the described advantages of American higher education, there are evident and problematic cons as well. Firstly, higher education tuition is extremely expensive, which translates to future financial burdens and inaccessibility for individuals with lower socioeconomic status. Secondly, inclusive education in higher education is not as accommodating for students with special needs. Since the emphasis of the given assessment will focus on specifics of special education, the common gaps include several areas. The curriculum does not holistically meet the needs of learners with disabilities (Armstrong, 2017). The substantial inclusion and accommodation gap between public and private institutions. The limited accommodation for learners with disabilities, such as visual impairment. The lack of financial support for students with disabilities in regards to mandatory educational expenses. Thirdly, recent novelties and discourses in American campuses are becoming highly politically polarized.
Importance and Impact of the Social and Equity Gaps
The cost of higher education in the United States has a drastic impact on a factor of accessibility and financial implications. The majority of students seeking to obtain a degree from an American college or university need to take a student loan, which contributes to the current student debt crisis in the US. It is stated that “student debt impacts borrowers over time by raising debt burdens, lowering credit scores and ultimately, limiting the purchasing power of those with student debt” (Johnson, 2021, para. 10). In other words, the middle class does not form, and generational inequality becomes more persistent. Therefore, addressing the student debt crisis and accommodation for learners with special needs are critical in order to promote equitable economic growth. On the national scale, “the U.S. Department of Education provides the vast majority of student loans, making the federal government one of the largest consumer credit agencies in the world” (Zaloom, 2018, para. 3). In other words, the US government is in charge of the student debt, which gives it the capability to solve the crisis. However, there is an evident reluctance to do so because the cancellation process will require a substantial sum of money.
Possible Solutions for the Identified Gaps
Since the implications of the student debt crisis and other issues are massively impactful on the national scale, it is important to explore the possible solutions to such problems. Some activists seek to cancel student debt through student debt forgiveness, and they also want to make higher education free of tuition (Zaloom, 2018). It is stated that “it would require that universities and politicians value college for bringing students of different classes together in a common educational project, such that students could use their experiences to craft new visions of social, political, and economic life for young adulthood” (Zaloom, 2018, para. 7). In other words, the benefit in boosting the middle class and purchasing power of the young workforce might justify the cost of free education. The middle class is a social group of people with a stable income from intellectual activity, capable of satisfying a wide range of their material and social needs (Thelin, 2019). The given social group is capable of performing modernization of social, economic, cultural functions in society. The main function of the middle class in the country is the ability to be a stabilizer of the socio-economic and political situation. In addition, this ability is associated with a relatively high level of satisfaction with one’s life position, as well as a desire for stability.
Latino Community and Immigration
It is important to note that Latino students are in a unique position in the American education system. It is stated that “Latino students underperform and are at higher risk of dropping out of high school than their non-Latino peers” (Marrero, 2016, p. 180). Sociocultural and socioeconomic implications play a central role in creating these barriers. One of the main barriers is rooted in Latino family culture, which negatively impacts educational performance since young Latino individuals are burdened with family support responsibilities (Marrero, 2016). In addition, the lack of representation among educators, where “negative expectations were set up for them by school personnel that inhibited their engagement in the academic process” (Marrero, 2016, p. 182). Many Latino students come from immigrant families, and the lack of knowledge of the English language also acts as a major barrier.
Thus, Latino immigrants face major barriers when attempting to obtain higher education due to a threat of deportation. The family-oriented culture among the community members makes it challenging for young Latino students to perform outstandingly due to their socioeconomic burdens. The result is manifested in a Latino student being either crippled by student debt or avoiding the higher education system in general. Therefore, the growth and development of the Latino community become impaired due to these barriers.
Students with Disabilities
One of the most significant gaps in American higher education is the underdeveloped accommodation for students with disabilities and special needs and the ones coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was diminished the learning culture to be focused solely on tests rather than learning (Thelin, 2019). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA is highly inaccessible for many Latino community members due to the required data entry, which could lead to deportation. In other words, illegal immigrant family’s children are not able to apply for DACA since it will lead to deportation of the applicant’s family (Thelin, 2019). In addition, Latino students with special needs face challenges in a test-oriented environment, which limits the educational support they are able to receive.
Community Colleges and Their Structure
In order to answer the drastic inflation of tuition costs, the government expanded community colleges as a more accessible alternative to acquiring higher education. Unlike traditional colleges and universities, community colleges provide general education for two years, and from this point onward, a student can complete his or her education in a regular one. Such colleges do not provide housing or large campuses for interaction and focus primarily on the education itself. It acts as a gateway for students to be able to access private institutions without significant financial commitments. The US government considers the introduction of innovation in education to be a universal way of solving the problems of higher education. Reasonable use of distance learning, with all its benefits, makes it possible to personalize learning, expand access to higher education, optimize the educational process and thus help students complete their studies at colleges and universities on time. For example, after the first two or three online classes, a student may refuse to study a subject or sign up with another teacher, or, if the subject turned out to be easy, take a completely new subject as a substitute. At the same time, the role of the teacher continues to be significant and consists in organizing the student’s self-education process.
Limitations and Barriers in Community Colleges
It should be noted that despite the accessibility of community colleges, they still remain inaccessible for students with disabilities. For example, although the education itself is free, there are a number of additional costs related to living and educational expenses, such as textbooks. Since visually impaired students use special books, the financial assistance programs are not helpful for such individuals. In addition, computers are also poorly accommodative for visually impaired persons since only a small fraction of devices have programs, such as JAWS or CCTV (Thelin, 2019). Therefore, despite the efforts to make community colleges accessible, these are properly accommodated for students with disabilities, which means that such students cannot use them as a gateway for traditional colleges. In other words, people with special needs can only access traditional schools by either being financially burdened or coming from a wealthy family.
Career Problems for People with Disabilities
Students with disabilities face even greater issues when selecting a major in which they could find appropriate employment. It is stated that one in four adults have some form of disability, among which nearly a quarter have visual impairments (Shaewitz & Crandall, 2020). It is also stated that “disability is part of the human condition. To ensure inclusion in higher education, campus leaders must consider how to fully embrace all students, faculty, and staff with and without disabilities” (Shaewitz & Crandall, 2020, para. 2). Therefore, it is evident that the proportion of students with visual needs is large, and they need a special level of competence when selecting a major and future career. However, modern counselors are not competent enough to guide and help such individuals, which makes community colleges less inclusive for the given group. Counselors and educational leaders need to be trained and competent as well as aware of the challenges faced by Latino students and students with special needs.
Moreover, a correct choice of career and field of employment determines the future integration of a person with a disability as well as his or her integration into society. By making the workforce more accessible and available for such individuals, the benefits will not only be for the target group but society in general. In other words, the labor market diversity can be significantly improved by uplifting individuals with disabilities and opening a path forwards in order for them to become future industry leaders. Therefore, it is of critical importance for employers to create a workable condition for people with disabilities, in which they can perform on the basis of equity and equality as non-disabled employees.
Assistance and Future Directions
On the basis of the information presented in the previous sections, it is important to understand that educational leaders and counselors need to work closely with students with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to reduce the equity and social gaps. The first major requirement is training provided for such professionals in order to make them competent in interacting and aiding such groups. Secondly, educational leaders need to create accommodative environments for students with disabilities by providing the necessary tools to work on computers and purchase special textbooks. Thirdly, educational experts need to revise application criteria in order to eliminate exclusion, such as DACA requirements. Lastly, leaders need to address global educational issues as well, such as the student debt crisis, which is preventing the growth and development of the young middle class.
It is important to note that both external and internal monitoring is practiced in the United States. Internal monitoring is an important prerequisite for the development of an educational institution and the basis for decentralized measurements of procedural and demonstrative features. A feature of this type of monitoring is that it is a universal tool for ensuring high-quality indicators and confirming positive dynamics, as well as a timely warning, if necessary, about possible undesirable events. External monitoring is provided by educational management structures or independent specialized institutions, most often to obtain statistically significant reliable information. It should be noted that in the United States, there are more than fifty national associations, agencies, and special centers that have received the status for monitoring the quality of education.
Much attention is paid to monitoring the quality of education in secondary and higher educational institutions since numerous studies of American scientists indicate the positive impact of properly organized monitoring on student performance. It is interesting to note that accreditation for higher education institutions is voluntary, but an institution without appropriate accreditation cannot count on financial support from the government. The accreditation process itself is independent of the government and is carried out by various non-governmental accreditations or institutions.
In conclusion, higher education in the United States is unique with its intricate systems of flexibility, inclusion, and global validity. However, it has its own ramifications, which are reflected in its inflated cost of tuition, inaccessibility for Latino students, and the lack of accommodation for students with special needs in community colleges. The latter two groups are not small populations, but rather a large portion, where Latino is the biggest minority in the country and a quarter of adults has some form of disability. Therefore, educational leaders and counseling experts need to act in order not to leave these groups behind, which creates social and inequity gaps. It will require the collective effort of legislative, communal, and professional improvements in order to bring equity to higher education in America.
One can conclude that the initiation of innovative processes in the field of higher education in the United States, in particular in the management and financing system, was a determining factor throughout the entire formation of the innovation system in the United States. The assessment shows that the development of the US innovation system is directly related to the development of higher education and the solution of the problems caused by the strengthening of globalization, the aggravation of international competition, and the consequences of the global economic crisis, at the present stage, the US government sees in the promising implementation of innovations in the management system and organization of the educational process.
Armstrong, D. (2017). Wicked problems in special and inclusive education. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 17(4), 229–236. Web.
Johnson, A. (2021). 3 ways student debt impacts the economy. CNBC. Web.
Marrero, F. A. (2016). Barriers to school success for Latino students. Journal of Education and Learning, 5(2), 180-186. Web.
Shaewitz, D., & Crandall, J. R. (2020). Higher education’s challenge: Disability inclusion on campus. Higher Education Today. Web.
Thelin, J. R. (2019). A history of American higher education. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Zaloom, C. (2018). 3 ways student debt impacts the economy. Cultural Anthropology. Web.