Are Colleges Doing Enough to Support Low-Income Students?

By Schouten, Lucy | The Christian Science Monitor, March 24, 2016 | Go to article overview

Are Colleges Doing Enough to Support Low-Income Students?


Schouten, Lucy, The Christian Science Monitor


Breaking the cycle of poverty can start with admission to college, but it doesn't end with just getting in.

A report by the US Department of Education describes practical strategies for the federal government, states, and the institutions themselves to help with recruiting - and graduating - students from low-income backgrounds.

"For years, colleges and universities have adopted an approach that was around admitting the best students they could and the onus was on the student to make it," said Andrew Nichols, a researcher at The Education Trust whose data was used in the report. "Now we look at it differently.... Certainly they need to do their part, but there are things colleges and universities can do."

The report described several successes from the Obama administration, including a $12 billion Pell Grant increase, expanded tax credits to help families pay tuition, allowing families to use the previous year's tax information on the FAFSA, and student loan reform.

Some of these changes are largely symbolic, writes Jon Marcus for the Hechinger Report, and they will succeed only if they change the priorities of America's colleges and universities.

In response to criticism that pressure over college rankings leads institutions away from recruiting and admitting potentially risky students, the administration has created a new rating system.

The new system explicitly addresses one specific problem identified by the administration: the gap in recruitment and graduation rates between students who receive Pell Grants, the federal aid for low-income students, and students who do not. The Hechinger Report was skeptical of the department's data but noted the shift the administration is trying to create. …

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