- A recent study from the Urban Institute found young people from high-income households (those with a household wealth of $223,500) have a 70% chance of completing at least two years of college, and a 43% chance of completing at least four years of college by the age of 23, compared to 41% and 24% for students from families with a household wealth under $2,000.
- First-generation students from high-wealth households have a 56% chance of finishing at least 2 years and a 32% chance of completing at least 4 years of college, compared to 30% and 14% for their low-wealth counterparts.
- Researchers say household wealth provides a security that income and financial aid don't by offering a sense to students as young as middle school that college is a possibility for them, therefore allowing students to focus on the academic challenges of college attainment, rather than the financial challenges associated with getting to and through college.
There is a lot of discussion in the affordability conversation about discount rates lessening the actual cost of attendance for most students, but research has shown the sticker price of higher education keeps many qualified students from even applying. Just as a lack of clear communication about the application process keeps students in Baltimore out of the top high schools, a lack of clear communication about how to apply and pay for college keeps students from lower-wealth and lower-income households boxed out of higher education, or with very limited options. And recent complications with the FAFSA that unlinked IRS data from the form are not making it any easier.
It is incumbent upon high school counseling staffs and college admissions offices to work together to provide more information to a greater number of students earlier in the process. If students are shown how to navigate scholarship applications or given information about grants as early as 9th grade, they will have a higher likelihood of seeing college as within reach, which could impact the courses they select and the decisions they make throughout their high school careers. And since research has shown success in college is mostly attributed to pre-college factors, there is a body of evidence that points to a need for earlier intervention on the part of higher ed.