It is More than Just the Money: More Challenges for "Low-Income" Students

In a recent blog posting from "College Bound", they reported some familiar statistics, 84 percent of high-income students enroll in college in the fall after high school, just 54 percent of those from low-income families go on to college, according to 2009 National Center for Education Statistics data. Poor students go to college at lower rates than wealthy students did 30 years ago. By age 24, young adults from high-income families are 10 times more likely to earn a bachelor's degree than those from low-income households. The authors asked, "What changes should be made to improve the landscape?"

The logical response is that it mostly about more financial aid (more grants than loans). That diverts from the bigger issue of lacking social capital for these low-income students. Probing further would reveal that a larger percentage of these "low-income" students are first-generation college, students of color, attended rural or urban school districts, and a variety of other factors. The answer to the question "what changes should be made...?" leads to a larger critique of higher education beyond just making some more money available. What changes does higher education institutions need to make to become more welcoming learning environments rather than focusing on the "deficits" of money. All institutions need to have a welcoming and supportive environment: trade school, community college, four-year liberal arts, and research-intensive universities.

Questions to ask of all institutions include:

  • What sorts of faculty development programs do they have that provide comprehensive and ongoing efforts to enable them to embed best practices of Universal Instructional Design into their courses? How are they building in academic supports in the class rather than just passing them off to someone else?

  • How high of a priority has the institution placed on raising more funds for grants targeted for students from low SES backgrounds? Are these funds keeping up with the dramatic increases in tuition and other costs associated with college?

  • How comprehensive are learning assistance activities for students? Are these provided through both credit and noncredit venues? Are exit competencies in developmental-level courses articulated with entry level expectations for college-level courses that they take next? What efforts are being made to take academic-term length developmental-level courses and turn them into a series of modules that can be taken independent of one another to quicken time for completion and less use of Pell grant money to pay for the tuition?

This is just scratching the surface of the issue for what are the challenges for "low-income" students. It is not just about the money.

[Click here to read entire entry from the College Bound blog.]