A new report from the KIPP Foundation calls on Congress to help improve college completion rates among students from low-income families, students of color, and first-generation students through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
The report, The Promise of a Choice-Filled Life: Meeting Students' College and Career Needs, From Classroom to Congress (36 pages, PDF), found that while a college degree increases the likelihood of intergenerational economic mobility, students of color and low-income students face barriers to college completion. According to the report, only 22 percent and 21 percent of African Americans and Latinx between the ages of 25 and 29 and just 11 percent of those from the lowest-income quartile have a bachelor's degree, compared with 37 percent of all Americans and 58 percent of those from the highest-income quartile.
KIPP, the largest public charter school network in the United States, boasts a 45 percent degree attainment rate among its high school graduates. But a survey of KIPP alumni who were enrolled in college in 2016 and 2017 found that 72 percent did not have career-aligned summer jobs or internships; 58 percent reported feeling negatively judged by others based on their race; 57 percent worried about food insecurity; 43 percent missed meals to pay for school-related expenses; and 24 percent were sending money home to support a family member.
Based on the experiences of KIPP alumni and insights from experts, the report outlines five recommendations for reforming the American higher education system: create a federal grant program to fund evidence-based college counseling; reduce financial barriers to college completion through a robust, federal-state, first-dollar, need-based aid program; establish and invest in a tiered-evidence innovation fund to scale successful policies, programs, and practices aimed at boosting completion rates; invest in minority-serving institutions and expand opportunities for undocumented students; and improve career integration throughout the pre-K-to-career pipeline and enhance the federal work-study program.
"We've made a lot of strides at KIPP toward improving college completion rates over the last decade, but they've only taken us so far," said KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth. "The college completion crisis is denying millions of young people the opportunity to achieve a college degree because too often they arrive on campus without the academic, financial, and social-emotional support they deserve. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is a tangible opportunity to address these barriers and create more equity in our system. We implore Congress to act this year with meaningful changes."