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Report: College Access For Low-Income Minorities Could Get Worse

Report: College Access For Low-Income Minorities Could Get Worse

A new report warns that a number of factors at the federal, state and institutional levels are likely to converge in the coming decade, creating potentially serious negative consequences on higher education opportunities for low-income, minority and other underserved populations.

The report, “Convergence: Trends Threatening to Narrow College Opportunity in America,” produced by the Institute for Higher Education Policy and funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, predicts that the coming decade will see, among other things, more financial aid flowing to upper-income students and families. The report also predicts that financial aid will become less effective against rising tuitions and that those entering higher education will be forced to take on more debt.

The authors contend that without a comprehensive and coordinated plan of action, the consequences for the nation’s economic, social and cultural well-being could be profound, leaving the United States less prepared to compete in the global economy. 

According to the report, a concerted public-private partnership involving the federal government, states, colleges and universities, students and parents and the private sector will be required to counter the convergence of these trends. This partnership, dubbed the National Dialogue on College Opportunity, would function as a standing committee of business leaders, college and university presidents, policymakers and students.

Key findings in the report include the following:

– Federal, state and institutional support is increasingly shifting toward academically based aid and away from the students with the most financial need.

– Early intervention and awareness programs that target low-income and first-generation students are critical to college access but have been threatened with elimination or budget cuts.

– Public colleges are relying more on tuition as a means of keeping up with increasing institutional expenditures and declining state revenues.

– Colleges are using institutional aid to compete for students, usually middle- and upper-income.

– Low-income and students of color will make up a significantly greater proportion of the college student population in the coming decade.

“Our goal is to make it clear that the train wreck of declining opportunity is coming,” says Jamie Merisotis, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy. “Action needs to be taken now by a broad coalition of partners in order to achieve the widest possible participation in higher education.”

“While the nation has made strides in accelerating college participation of low-income and minority students, this report documents the trends that, if not reversed, will undermine that progress,” says Blenda J. Wilson, president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

— By staff and wire reports

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