Report: Income, Race Disparities Persist in Higher Education Opportunities

Posted by Council for Opportunity in Education on August 13, 2019

While the United States has made progress in increasing postsecondary attainment, data trends show that there are still persisting inequalities in higher education opportunity, according to a new report from the Council for Opportunity in Education’s Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Education and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD).

The organizations’ report explores six equity indicators and finds, among other trends, that in 2016 the average net price of college after grants and discounts was 94 percent of the average family income for students in the lowest income quartile; Pell Grants in 2017 only covered 25 percent of average education costs, compared to two-thirds in the mid-1970s; and that students who are both low-income and first generation have a 21 percent chance of earning a bachelor’s degree in six years compared to a 57 percent chance for non-low-income, non-first generation peers.

Report co-authors Dr. Margaret Cahalan and Dr. Laura W. Perna note that their report “2019 Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: Historical Trend Report” raises an opportunity for federal and state policymakers to implement policies and programs that improve outcomes for students, especially low-income, first-generation and students with disabilities.

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