Higher ed equity report shows continued gaps in degree attainment

Dive Brief:

  • The Pell Institute's "Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States 2016 Historical Trend Report" finds bachelor’s degree attainment is up across the board, but the top two income quartiles still earn 77% of all bachelor’s degrees attained in 2014.
  • The study finds students at opposite ends of the income spectrum enroll in different types of schools and have varying rates of success in college  and while more students overall are earning degrees, wealthy students are even more likely to do so compared to 1970, when the top two income quartiles earned 72% of all degrees.
  • The report was written by the Pell Institute and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, focusing on enrollment trends tied to income, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

Dive Insight:

Colleges have spent the last several decades focusing on access. Community colleges were invented to offer more students a chance at higher education, both cheaper and closer to home. State and federal funding was largely apportioned based on enrollment numbers. The more people colleges enrolled, the more money they got.

Policymakers now are pushing higher education institutions to focus on the twin goals of access and success. Performance-based funding systems reward institutions for the number of students they graduate, and the best ones specifically look for outcomes among disadvantaged student populations. The U.S. Department of Education is now asking accreditors to focus more on student outcomes at member institutions, marking a shift all the way up to the highest levels of policy.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation
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