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White House Take - Report on Increasing College Opportunity for Low Income Students

White House Report on Increasing College Opportunity for Low Income Students (Data)

Photo of Maria Salamanca
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Executive Summary
With the growing demand for college-educated workers, a college education is one of the surest ways into the middle class. To help more students afford and graduate from college, the Administration has taken steps to address these challenges – doubling Federal investments in Pell Grants and college tax credits, reforming student loans, and taking new steps to reduce college costs and improve value. But while the President continues to push for changes that keep college affordable for all students and families, we can and must be doing more to get more low-income students prepared for college, enrolled in quality institutions, and graduating.

Each year hundreds of thousands of low-income students face barriers to college access and success. Low-income students often lack the guidance and support they need to prepare for college, apply to the best-fit schools, apply for financial aid, enroll and persist in their studies, and ultimately graduate. As a result, large gaps remain in educational achievement between students from low-income families and their high-income peers. Increasing college opportunity is not just an economic imperative, but a reflection of our values. We need to reach, inspire, and empower every student, regardless of background, to make sure that our country is a place where if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.

Under the President and First Lady’s leadership, the Administration and the Department of Education engaged with leading experts to identify the barriers to increasing college opportunity. Some of the most promising actions are to help and encourage low-income students to apply, enroll, and succeed in college. Based on the existing evidence, we identified four key areas where we could be doing more to promote college opportunity. On January 16th, the Administration is announcing new commitments from colleges and university presidents, nonprofits, leaders of philanthropy and the private sector in these four key areas. These efforts mark the beginning of an ongoing mobilization that will work to promote evidence-based techniques, continue to understand what works, and expand successful efforts.

Yet college access and attainment remains unequal. Given the growing need for an educated work force, increasing college opportunity will be critical to promoting social mobility for future generations.

  •  While half of all people from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do.4
  •  When children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution get a college degree, their chances of making it to the top nearly quadruple, and their chances of making it out of the bottom increase by more than 50 percent.5
  •  Colleges have grown more competitive, restricting access. While the number of applicants to four-year colleges and universities has doubled since the early 1970s, available slots have changed little.6

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

An institutional and top-bottom approach to college affordability


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Photo of Saqib Ali

I agree with you in that there is a huge disparity in people attending college. If more people of lower incomes could attend colleges the total US population would be better represented. It is unfair that people that can attend college are the ones whose parents had the same opportunity. It is of the utmost importance that people attend college so they can leave the cycle of poverty. Given college's roles over the last few decades we have not seen any improvement in the status quo. It is interesting to see what the federal government can do to intervene.

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