Recently there has been considerable buzz about the White House Summit with college and university leaders. This group met to discuss ways to increase the entrance and success of low income students in college. The event was dominated by schools deemed the best in the nation, those with the strongest students, lots of money and influence, and great rankings. In many ways that makes perfect sense. The actions of higher education’s elite institutions command media attention that ensures this important topic becomes part of the nation’s agenda.
The frank discussions about college access and success of low-income students also allow the nation to confront reality. A 2011 study by the Pell Institute suggested the threat of income-based inequality in education is a key obstacle in reaching President Obama’s 2020 education goal. The facts are shocking. Bachelor’s degree attainment by age 24 for dependent students from the bottom half of the income distribution was only 12%. The same group from the top half had a rate of 58.8%.
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