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September 21, 2004

Report Details Academic Achievement By Income Level

FROM A FIRST OF ITS KIND STUDY by the Pell Institute comes a snapshot of the ability of needy students to go to college and graduate.

The report, "Indicators of Opportunity in Higher Education," found that most students from low-income families never consider going to college, and those who do tend to go to community and for-profit colleges.

"This is the first national report of its kind that measures available opportunities for low-income students to access and succeed in higher education," said Arnold Mitchem, the council's president. "It clearly illustrates that our nation must take steps right now to seriously expand programs that improve access to higher education so that we can open the doors of postsecondary education for all students."

The report examined where students at different economic levels are going to college. Among the findings:

• At community colleges, 20% of all students were from families with annual incomes under $25,000, 59% were from families earning $25,000 to $74,999, and 21% were from those making $75,000 and above.

• At private two-year institutions, 22% of all students were from the lowest-income group, 50% were from the middle-income group, and 28% were from the highest-income group.

• At public four-year colleges, 11% were from the lowest-income group, 48% were from the middle-income group, and 41% were from the highest-income group.

• At private four-year colleges, 8% were from the lowest-income group, 35% were from the middle-income group, and 57% were from the highest-income group.

Other findings of the report:

• 6% of all low-income students attend private for-profit institutions, compared with 2% of middle-income students and 1% of high-income students.

• For students from low-income families attending a four-year public institution, total charges accounted for approximately 60% of family income (in 1999-2000).

• For students from middle-income families, the share was 17%.

• For students from high-income families, the share was 5%.

• Among those students in the lowest income group, an estimated 7% attain their bachelor’s degree by age 24, compared to 39% for those students from the middle income group, and 52% for those from the highest income group.

The report culminated in a statement that there appears to be an "increased stratification by students' income, meaning that low-income students are increasingly attending two-year and non-degree-granting institutions." If low-income students are unable to go to four-year colleges and obtain a bachelor's degree, the report says, "their aspirations and achievements will be limited."

Progress has been made, but there’s a long way to go.

(this 412 word excerpt was distilled from a 12 page, many charts and tables press release from the Pell Institute Council For Opportunity in Education, 9-21-04, www.pellinstitute.org )