Low-income students are eight times less likely to earn a college degree than their higher-income peers
LANSDOWNE, Va. (November 9, 2017) — Colleges can dramatically increase the odds of success for students with financial need by changing their financial aid practices, according to a new report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The report, titled “Making College Affordable,” examines the numerous barriers preventing low-income students from enrolling and persisting in college. These barriers include concerns over high tuition and fees, lack of clarity on award amounts and duration, and a limited understanding of how financial aid works.
“Students’ success in higher education should be decided by their talent and hard work, it should not depend on their families’ incomes,” said Harold Levy, executive director of the Cooke Foundation. “When colleges are inaccessible to students with financial need, those students are cheated out of an education, and we, as a society, lose out on their talent and contributions. It’s well past time we stop viewing higher education as a privilege for those who can afford it and start viewing it as a right for all who have the potential to succeed.”
According to the report, widespread university practices such as the shift towards merit-based scholarships may actually exacerbate barriers by limiting available aid to low-income students who need it the most. Lack of understandable information in financial aid award letters also puts low-income students at a disadvantage because students may incorrectly conclude that a college education is unattainable — or enter college without a full understanding of how to manage costs, and ultimately drop out.
The report outlines 11 best practices that colleges and universities should implement to help low-income students finance their college education. The strategies are organized into three categories: clarifying financial information, easing the financial burden, and filling in financial aid gaps. By implementing the strategies, schools can provide students with better information to make more informed choices, make going to college more affordable, and help students maximize the aid they receive.
“For too long, students have been left out of the equation when it comes to college affordability,” said Dr. Zakiya Smith, strategy director at Lumina Foundation and author of the report’s foreword. “With this report, we can start to have a conversation about taking the onus off the student to figure out how to pay for college and putting it on institutions to provide students with better information to help them make more informed choices.”
“Making College Affordable” was written by Dr. Jennifer Glynn, director of research at the Cooke Foundation, and Dr. Crystal Coker, postdoctoral research associate at the foundation. The report is available for download on the foundation website here: www.JKCF.org/affordable