Join our podcast
Education-equity experts discuss the income-driven degree divide
St. Paul, Minn.—Education is the great equalizer and a college degree is the surest path to prosperity, yet a growing share of Americans are being left behind. In 1970, six percent of low-income students earned a college degree, compared to 40 percent of upper-income students. Fast-forward 40 years and college degree attainment among upper-income students has nearly doubled, while low-income students have made meager gains. Today 73 percent of upper-income students earn a college degree—nearly nine times the rate of low-income students (Postsecondary Education Opportunity, 2013).
Research from the nation’s top education-equity thinkers points to financial, academic and social factors that determine who earns a college degree, and who doesn’t. Each of these barriers amount to a vast degree divide, and the consequences for America’s economic future are dire. Projections from Georgetown University show that the American workforce will fall millions short of the total educated workers needed by 2020.
College Possible is bringing together researchers and change-makers for a live podcast recording exploring the history and future of the persistent, income-driven degree divide, and what can be done to close it. Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Beckie Supiano will moderate the conversation featuring Dr. Susan Dynarski, Dr. Chris Avery, Dr. Ben Castleman, College Possible CEO and Founder Jim McCorkell, Todd Penner and Traci Kirtley.
Low-income and first-generation students are less likely than their peers to enroll in college. Once on campus, first-generation college students—many of whom are low-income—drop out at three times the rate of students whose parents graduated from college. Our nation is facing a college drop-out crisis, according to Dr. Dynarski.
Research conducted by Dr. Avery at Harvard University suggests that the chasm can be bridged through strong relationships, intentional test preparation and coaching delivered by recent college graduates. Support and guidance from trained advisers can help students navigate the complex path to college and develop the soft skills to succeed once they’re on campus.
Simple interventions, like a text-messaging program developed and tested by Dr. Castleman, can also increase students’ enrollment and persistence rates. Starting off on the right foot is critical to a student’s long-term success. Students that attend colleges that challenge them are more likely to graduate, but low-income students are less likely than their wealthier peers to attend institutions that match their academic abilities.
College Possible–a national nonprofit dedicated to coaching promising low-income students to and through college–has achieved top-of-field results in creating more graduates. A recent Harvard University evaluation shows that College Possible’s approach is effective and that students served are significantly more likely to enroll in a four-year college. 98 percent of College Possible students earn admission to college, and students are four times more likely to graduate from college than their low-income peers.
On April 26 the nation’s top education-equity thinkers, researchers and change-makers will join reporters online for a conversation to spotlight:
- The history of the large income-driven gap between those who earn college degrees and those who don’t,
- Why the degree divide matters to every American, and
- What can be done to close it in the next 10, 20 and 50 years.
Visit CollegePossible.org/Podcast to listen. A brief, live Q&A will follow the discussion.
Beckie Supiano, moderator
Dr. Susan Dynarski
Dr. Chris Avery
Dr. Ben Castelman
Tuesday, April 26 at 11 a.m. ET
College Possible leadership, coaches and students are available for interview.
College Possible is making college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. College Possible operates in Minnesota, Milwaukee, Omaha, Portland, Philadelphia and Chicago.