May 17, 2018
Low-income, first-generation American students face major barriers, financial and otherwise, in attending colleges and universities, and those obstacles can vary significantly by state, according to the Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States — 2018 Historical Trend Report. The annual report, published by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Education (Pell Institute) of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD), also found that while more low-income college students are enrolling, the nation has not yet achieved equal access to higher education for all citizens regardless of family background or geographic location. These continuing disparities have significant negative consequences on the ability of all citizens to earn a living wage, on our nation's global competitiveness and contribute to income inequality in the United States.
Among key findings:
"While there appears to be some progress, there are many reasons for concern," said Laura Perna, report co-author and director of PennAHEAD. "For example, more black students are attending college, but they are going into more debt to do so. More low-income students are attending college than in years past, but low-income students continue to be concentrated in less selective and for-profit institutions and have lower degree completion rates. Since higher education is a steppingstone to the middle class, we should be worried that national and state higher education policies are foreclosing opportunities for the next generation."
Margaret Cahalan, report co-author and director of The Pell Institute said, "Recent reports have highlighted that while higher education provides opportunity for mobility, it has also led to greater stratification and a justifier of growing wage and wealth disparity. We have long seen how family income is an important factor in whether or not students enter and complete college, but the growing differences among states reflect that we are increasingly moving into a geographically divided country. The strong relationship of parent education as a primary correlate to college attainment serves to magnify the differences over generations. Delving into the disparity among states, we're seeing trends that show profound implications of where students live in the United States in the likelihood that they will enter and complete college in the U.S."
Since 2015, the Indicator Reports have examined trends in higher education in the U.S. through the lens of equity, compiling historical trend data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education and other public sources. The 2018 report, for the first time, includes data by state, and also includes statistics on income inequality trends.
The Pell Institute conducts and disseminates research and policy analysis to encourage policymakers, educators, and the public to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities. It is the research arm of the Council for Opportunity in Education, a nonprofit organization established in 1981 that is dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities.
PennAHEAD is dedicated to fostering open, equitable, and democratic societies through higher education. Located within the Graduate School of Education of the University of Pennsylvania, PennAHEAD conducts original research and applies a multidisciplinary, research-based approach to address the most pressing issues regarding the societal contributions of higher education in the United States and the world.
For an embargoed copy of the full report, contact Kimberly Jones at COE via e-mail at (firstname.lastname@example.org).