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College Access - USA

Page history last edited by Robert Hackett 1 week, 5 days ago

Front Page / Issue Briefs / Education / College Access / USA 


Issue Brief


College Access - USA



Scope of the Problem  factual statements on the extent of the problem in the past, current, or future

  • College Attainment and Education Gaps:  
    • There is a significant gap in educational attainment between America's highest and lowest income students. Despite similar talents and potential, low-income students are rarely represented in higher education (particularly at more selective four-year colleges and universities). While nearly 67% of high-income, highly-qualified students enroll in four-year colleges, only 47% of low-income, highly-qualified students enroll. Even more startling, 77% of the least-qualified, high-income students go on to college, while roughly the same proportion of the most-qualified low-income students do not go on to college (ACSFA 2005).
    • Decreasing Numbers in Male Enrollment: Since 1984, the number of females in graduate schools has exceeded the number of males. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of male full-time graduate students increased by 32 percent, compared to a 63 percent increase for female graduate students (NCES). In 2009, 42% of males were enrolled in college in comparison to 58% of females (US Census Bureau Educational Attainment in the United States 2009)[1].
    • Racial Gaps in Attainment: More than half (53 percent) of Asians 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or more, much higher than the rate for non-Hispanic whites (33 percent), blacks (19 percent) and Hispanics (13 percent). [2] In particular, African American and Hispanic students lag considerably behind other ethnic groups, as reflected by test scores, grades, graduation rates, disciplinary action, and rates of undergraduate degrees (United States Department of Education - 2008).


  • Rising Cost of Higher Education: Between the 1997-1998 and 2007-2008 school years, comprehensive prices (tuition, room, and board) for public institutions rose by 30%, and at 21%, after inflation adjustment.
    • Constraints of Student Aid: Student aid in the form of grants and scholarships have not kept pace with the rising costs of college. College costs have increased 5.9 % annually (almost double the rate of inflation) while grant and scholarship aid has only increased by 4.2%.[3]
    • Lack of Knowledge About College Costs: In a recent study, 82% of college-advising experts say that students and their families do not understand the difference between the published costs of attendance (room and board, tuition, books, fees, and related expenses) and their net costs or out-of-pocket costs (cost of attendance minus grants and scholarships).[4] By looking at the initial "sticker price" of some institutions, many families are deterred from selecting certain schools because they believe they are out of their price range.


  • Barriers to the Application Process:
    • Lack of knowledge about the application process: In a survey of over 600 higher education professionals working in the realm of college access (admissions, administration, counselors, etc.), 77% believe that families do not fully understand the application process and lose out on Federal Aid.
    • Federal student aid applications: Research shows that financial aid plays a critical role for students in many ways. Some include: whether to apply at all, the choice of an institution and even whether to enroll or not.
    • SAT/ ACT Costs: The costs for the SAT/ ACT are roughly $45 per test and registration fees are added if the student picks a date past the original registration time. Furthermore, prep work for these tests ranges in the $1500 range for weekly sessions and workshops. Along with materials and costs for these tests, many students are disproportionately prepared for the test. Many families are unaware that a fee waiver can be used for the student to take the test for free.


  • Lack of High School Resources:
    • Insignificant student preparation:
    • Not enough student advising 


Past Policy  key legislation and milestones including significant policy and funding shifts, major studies, etc.

  • Higher Education Act of 1965: (Public Law 89-329) With the goal of strengthening American colleges and universities, the Higher Education Act of 1965, or HEA, provides financial assistance and other resources for students pursuing postsecondary and higher education. The HEA provides the authorizing legislation for most of the programs administered by OPE, as well as for the Federal Student Aid Programs. The 1965 HEA started the Office of Postsecondary Education, Federal Student Aid Programs, and GEAR UP to combat low levels of attendance of low income students and access to those who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education.


  • 1998 Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965: To extend the authorization of programs under the Higher Education Act of 1965, and for other purposes. GEAR UP was formed under the 1998 reauthorization. The amendments of 1998 also included the Aid Elimination Provision, which prevents students with drug charges from receiving federal aid for colleges and universities.



Current Policy  summary of current policies in the form of legislation, programs, and funding

  • The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRAA): In addition to other amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965, the CCRAA created two new federal programs: a new Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and a new Income-Based Repayment plan (IBR) for the repayment of federal loans.By capping student loan payments at a reasonable percentage of income, IBR assures that repayment will be affordable for borrowers who hit hard times.[5]

  • Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)- 2008: (Public Law 110-315) HEOA was enacted on August 14, 2008, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. This law contains a number of important new provisions including new reporting requirements for institutions, grant programs for colleges and students, and provisions designed to lower the cost of a college education. It addresses simplifying the federal aid application, developing campus safety plans, and rules regarding relationships between higher education institutions and student lenders. The law also mandates studies on 24 topics, including articulation agreements, nursing school capacity, and the impact of student loan debt on public service.

    • Programs: 

      • The Federal TRIO Programs:TRIO are Federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs. TRIO also includes a training program for directors and staff of TRIO projects.
      • Contact: Suzanne Ulmer at (202) 502-7789 or OPE_TRIO@ed.gov
        • Educational Opportunity Centers: CFDA 84.066A The Educational Opportunity Centers program provides counseling and information on college admissions to qualified adults who want to enter or continue a program of post-secondary education. The program also provides services to improve the financial and economic literacy of participants.
        • Student Support Services Program:  CFDA 84.042  Through a grant competition, funds are awarded to institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for academic development, assist students with basic college requirements, and to motivate students toward the successful completion of a postsecondary education.
        • Talent Search:  CFDA 84.044 The Talent Search program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education.
        • Upward BoundCFDA 84.047  Upward Bound provides fundamental support to high school students from low-income families and first-generation high school students in their preparation for college entrance. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in their pre-college performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits.  





Key Organizations/Individuals   contacts for public and private organizations and key individuals


  • Non-Profit - Advocacy/Membership/Network
    • American Youth Policy Forum: The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) provides learning opportunities for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. Focuses on three overlapping themes: Education, Youth Development and Community Involvement, and Preparation for Careers ad Workforce Development.
    • College Summit: College Summit has works in partnership with schools, school districts and colleges to develop a sustainable model for raising college enrollment rates community-wide. It operates in 11 regions throughout the country. 
    •  Consortium of Universities of Washington, DC: The Consortium is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization governed by the officers and representatives of the 14 participating universities and colleges in the D.C area.  Founded in 1964, the Consortium's mission has always been to support cooperative endeavors no single institution could accomplish by itself.
    • Council for Opportunity in Education (COE): COE is dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities throughout the United States. The Council is composed of more than 1,000 colleges and agencies that host TRIO programs to specifically help low-income students enter college and graduate. More than one million low-income and disabled students each year receive college access and retention services through their member colleges and agencies.
    • The Institute for College Access & Success: An independent, nonprofit organization, the Institute for College Access & Success works to make higher education more available and affordable for people of all backgrounds. By conducting and supporting nonpartisan research, analysis, and advocacy, the Institute aims to improve the processes and public policies that can pave the way to successful educational outcomes for students and for society.[6]  Contact: Lauren Asher at (510) 318-7900 
    • Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP): IHEP is committed to equal of opportunity for all and helps low-income, minority, and other historically underrepresented populations with college access and completion of post-secondary education around the world. IHEP uses research and innovative programs to inform key decision makers who shape public policy and support economic and social development. Their five focus areas are: Access and Success, Accountability, Diversity, Finance, and Global Impact.
      • Contact: Dr. Michelle Asher Cooper, President, at 202-861-8223
    • National College Access Network (NCAN): The National College Access Network (NCAN) is committed to serving as a resource for communities committed to college access.  NCAN was created through the networking of organizations involved in promoting college access. 
    • Pathways to College Network: The Pathways to College Network is an alliance of national organizations that focuses on college access for underserved youth by raising public awareness, supporting innovative research, and promoting evidence-based policies and practices across the K-12 and higher education sectors. The Pathways to College Network is directed by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).
      • Contact: Dr. Michelle Asher Cooper, President, at 202-861-8223


  • Foundations
    • Lumina Foundation: Lumina is the nation's largest foundation dedicated exclusively to increasing students' access to and success in postsecondary education. The Foundation aims to lessen the educational gap for underrepresented groups, meet international benchmarks, and meet workforce demands. Lumina also does policy advocacy focused on increasing college access and post-secondary graduation.
      • Address: Lumina Foundation for Education 30 South Meridian Street Indianapolis, IN 46204
      • Contact: Jamie P. Merisotis, President and CEO Office Phone: 317.951.5300


  • Other



Bibliography   web sites, reports, articles, and other reference material 

  • Hooker., S & Brand, B. (2009) Success at Every Step: How 23 Programs Support Youth on the Path to College and BeyondWashington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum. Profiles of effective college/career readiness programs for middle and high school students across the country, including well-known programs like Upward Bound and Talent Search. Concludes with policy actions/recommendations. Will be a great source for current statistics on college access programming.

  • Mini-Digest of Education Statistics 2009, published by National Center for Educational Statistics. A great resource published April 2010 by Dept. of Education. 
  • Removing Roadblocks to Rigor: Linking Academic and Social Supports to Ensure College Readiness and Success. April 2009. Pathways to College Network, Institute for Higher Education Policy. 

  • Harper, Shaun R., Lori D. Patton, and Ontario S. Wooden. "Access and Equity for African American Students in Higher Education: A Critical Race Historical Analysis of Policy Efforts." The Journal of Higher Education 80.4 (2009): 389-414.

  • Roderick, Melissa, Jenny Nagaoka, and Vanessa Coca. "College Readiness for All: The Challenge for Urban High Schools." The Future of Children 19.1 (2009): 185-210.

  • Tierney, William G., and Kristan M. Venegas. "Finding Money on the Table: Information, Financial Aid, and Access to College." The Journal of Higher Education 80.4 (2009): 363-88.

  •  St. John, Edward P., Glenda D. Musoba, Ada Simmons, Choong-Geun Chung, Jack Schmit, and Chao-Ying J. Peng. "Meeting the Access Challenge: An Examination of Indiana's Twenty-First Century Scholars Program." Research in Higher Education 45.8 (2004): 829-71.

  •  Cabrera, Alberto F., and Steven M. La Nasa. "On the Path to College: Three Critical Tasks Facing America's Disadvantaged." Research in Higher Education 42.2 (2001): 119-49. 




Dr. Lorelle L. Espinosa


  1. Bernstein, Robert. "US Census Bureau Educational Attainment in the United States 2009." US Census Bureau Annual Reports. (2009)
  2. Bernstein, Robert. "US Census Bureau Educational Attainment in the United States 2009." US Census Bureau Annual Reports. (2009)
  3. Childress, David. "Solutions to Expand College Access: A comprehensive research study with insights from 610 college advising professionals." White Paper. (2009): 1-11.
  4. Childress, David. "Solutions to Expand College Access: A comprehensive research study with insights from 610 college advising professionals." White Paper. (2009): 1-11.
  5. http://ticas.org/accomplishments.vp.html
  6. http://ticas.org/about.vp.html

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