Young adults from lower socioeconomic backgrounds face an uphill battle in obtaining the necessary education to achieve financial wellbeing and stability later in life. We believe this is a serious problem. This difficulty is rooted in two deficiencies these students face: (1) adequate finances and (2) necessary guidance and support. These issues tend to persist through multiple generations of lower-income families and are a contributing factor to the increasing wage gap and the lack of upward economic mobility in the United States and other countries around the world. We believe that the Hopkin Foundation’s financial contribution and mentoring are one step towards alleviating these issues and provide the opportunity for these young adults to succeed.
In 2002, the Department of Education began tracking a large, nationally representative group of high school sophomores, whom it had tested for math and reading skills, and continued monitoring these students’ progress through college. The purpose of the study was to observe the contrasting postsecondary education experiences of high school students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Ten years after the study was initiated, the results indicate a number of troubling conclusions.
The Advantage of Wealth in College
At every level of academic ability, the low-income students were less likely to finish college than their wealthier peers. Even more astonishing is that exceptionally smart poor students, whose math scores ranked them among the top quartile of the study’s participants, have the same chance of graduating with a bachelor’s degree (41%) as a scholastically mediocre wealthy student.
B.A. Completion Rate in Three Socio-Economic Groups, Ranked in Four Groups of Math Test Scores.
The Path for High-Achieving Lower-Income Students
Taking a step beyond graduation rates and observing what the high-achieving, lower-income students end up doing after high school sheds even more light on the subject. Although 87.4% of these students choose to attend college, most either do not finish college or settle for less than a 4-year degree. Some students try to save money by attending community colleges, which typically don’t have as many resources dedicated to helping students navigate their education and prepare for careers. Some get lost or overwhelmed because they don’t have family members with college experience to provide guidance and support. It is also likely that many high-achieving, lower-income students attend poor high schools where few students aim high and counselors rarely encourage them to do so.
College Attrition Statistics For Lower-Income Students
Despite an increase in the high school graduation rate of lower-income students, the percent of lower-income high school graduates enrolling in college has decreased dramatically. These trends suggest that the students the Hopkin Foundation aims to serve (low-income, high-potential college students) has increased.
Graduation Rates Largely Impacted by the Family’s Experience with Higher Education
It is extremely important for prospective college students to have a strong support system to help guide them through the process of applying to and attending college. At the beginning of the 2002 study, roughly 70 percent of those 10th graders planned to attend college. That ranged from a high of 87 percent among students whose parents had the highest level of income and education to 58 percent of those whose parents were the least educated, poorest and largely unskilled. Among this latter group of students, a mere 14 percent of the total—and only one in four of those who planned to as sophomores—had earned a college degree by 2014.