77% of Richest Students Earn a College Degree Compared to 9% of Poorest Students

Thursday, February 05, 2015
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Income inequality has had a huge impact on who attends and finishes college in the United States, a new study (pdf) shows.


Children of the wealthiest Americans were more than eight times more likely in 2013 to receive a bachelor’s degree than the poorest, according to the Pell Institute. Those in the upper strata saw 77% graduate from college, while only 9% accomplished the same feat at the bottom rung. The gap in college education has widened considerably since 1970, when 40% of students from high-income families earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 6% of students from low-income families.


The Pell Institute blames budget cuts in higher education for the growing disparity, saying: “The disinvestment of state funds for public colleges and universities occurring since the 1980s and the declining value of federal student grant aid have all aided in the creation of a higher education system that is stained with inequality.”


“Once known for wide accessibility to and excellence within its higher education system, the U.S. now has an educational system that serves to sort students in ways related to later life chances based on their demographic characteristics rather than provide all youth with the opportunity to use their creative potential to realize the many benefits of higher education and advance the well-being and progress of the nation.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States (Pell Institute) (pdf)

As College Grads Drop Down the Job Market, Non-Grads are Bumped Off (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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