Ed Department: Increase share of low-income students—and their graduation rates too

'It's critical that we bring attention to those that are failing to enroll low-income students'

Colleges need to do more to recruit and graduate low-income students, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education. 

"Many colleges and universities have taken important steps to make college a reality for low-income students, but unfortunately today those success stories are the exception–they ought to be the rule," says Education Secretary John B. King. 

See also: Low-income students, high-impact recruitment

A ProPublica analysis last year found that while some colleges give large discounts to low-income students, they also admit only a small number—and many colleges leave such students with large amounts of student debt.

"It's critical that we bring attention to those that are failing to enroll low-income students or support them adequately," says Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst at New America.

On average, just 51% of Pell Grant recipients complete college, compared with 65% of their non-Pell Grant peers. 

How to finish in four: Supporting on-time graduation for low-income students

The Education Department report calls on institutions to narrow that wealth graduation gap.

"We understand that you can't put all the responsibility on the student. Certainly they need to do their part, but there are things colleges and universities can do," says Andrew Nichols, a researcher at The Education Trust, which provided data for the report.

The report aligns with other recent White House initiatives to expand access to and increase outcomes for low-income students, such as making Pell Grants applicable all year long and the America's College Promise proposal (Waldman, ProPublica, 3/24). 

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