New website allows journalists, policymakers, educators and the public to explore data on equality and opportunity in U.S. higher education.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 25, 2017) – Although college participation rates continue to rise among United States students of all races, ethnicities, and economic levels, a new report issued today details the country’s emerging two-tiered educational system that is increasingly likely to produce different life outcomes for rich and poor students. Students from the highest income families are nearly five times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24 than students from the poorest families, the report shows. The report also shows that college completion has increased at a slower pace in the U.S. than in many other developed countries, especially since 2000.
The report, Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 2017 Historical Trend Report, compiles statistical data since the 1970s from the nationally representative Census Bureau household studies, and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)-sponsored high school and college longitudinal studies which track college entrance and completion by family income, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity. It was jointly prepared by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education at the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (PennAHEAD).
Today’s report release also marks the Pell Institute launch of an Equity Indicators website, which will provide searchable data files for this year’s report, reports from previous years and link to accompanying Shared Solutions essays for reports.
Selected highlights of the 2017 report:
Financial Aid and College Costs
College Continuation After High School
Bachelor’s Degree Attainment by Age 24
“Average college costs, relative to the U.S. average family income, and the increasing development of a stratified, two-tiered higher education system in the United States are two major factors that are depressing the rates of attainment, especially for low-income and first-generation students,” said Margaret Cahalan, report co-author and director of the Pell Institute. “On average, children of more affluent and college-educated parents tend to attend more resourced and selective 4-year institutions, while lower-income, first- generation students are overrepresented at often less resourced 2-year institutions and for-profit institutions. This calls for more study.”
Laura Perna, report co-author, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of PennAHEAD, said, “For reasons of social justice and international competitiveness, closing the persisting gaps in college attainment must be a national priority. Public policymakers and institutional leaders must do more to ensure that all students, regardless of family income, social class, and race/ethnicity, have the opportunity to attain a college degree.”
The two organizations instituted the Equity Indicators project in 2015 with a shared mission to help foster a U.S. higher education system in which all citizens, regardless of family backgrounds, have the opportunity to develop their talents and capacity to fully participate in a democratic society.
The report and the accompanying Search for Solution Shared Dialogues were made possible with support from the Travelers Foundation and Lumina Foundation.