When It Comes to Serving Low-Income Students, California is Golden
Students from low-income families belong in higher education. On that, most senior officials seem to agree. Eliminating the current achievement gap is on the radar of institutions across the country.
So who’s really doing a good job of it?
New data from Third Way suggests that sadly, most colleges aren’t yet graduating substantial numbers of kids who are eligible to federal or Pell Grants. (About 75 percent of families who receive Pell Grants make less than $40,000 annually.) While current research shows that fewer than 50 percent of first-gen Pell students graduate in six years, those that didn’t receive Pell Grants (and are presumably more well-off) had graduation rates 18 percent higher.
There is, however, a ray of hope: the University of California system.
Every single time we do these outcome measures, the UC system stands out,” Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Third Way’s head of social policy and politics program, told Adam Harris in The Atlantic.
State funding has a lot to do with it—not only does the state have large coffers for public education, officials are committed to targeting higher-than-average cuts to programs targeting low-income schools.
They also do an incredible amount of outreach to low-income students while they’re still in high school, from academic enrichment to relationship building in underserved communities.
On-campus support is also key. As Janet Napolitano, the system’s chancellor, told Harris, “A student needs to have access to whatever support they need in order to help them succeed.”
It’s an approach that’s clearly working. The latest data shows graduation percentage rates for Pell students at four of UC’s campuses in the mid- to-high 80s. Clearly, other states would do well to copy this model.
Read more about UC’s approach here.