College = Upward Mobility: California Best At Providing It

Sunny California boasts the top five colleges doing the most for low-income students according to the NYT’s College Access Index. The index is based on the share of students who receive Pell grants, the graduation rates of those students, and the price the college charges both low-and-middle income students.

Helping low-income kids attend and graduate from college is a key part of the White House’s education agenda. According to their analysis, when children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution get a college degree, their chances of making it to the top nearly quadruple, and their chances of making it out of the bottom increase by more than 50 percent.

Even in economic hard times, college graduates fare better than high school graduates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those with a 4-year degree command 2x the median income of those with only a high school diploma.

Income and education are inextricably linked. But beyond money, there are other benefits like higher levels of job satisfaction and better quality of life & health measures.

Yet in 2015, college enrollment rates were on the decline for everyone; College enrollments in fall 2015 totaled just under 19.3 million, down 1.7 percent compared to fall 2014.

This supports the U.S.’ fall in worldwide rankings for four year college attainment; in 1990 we ranked 1st. Today we rank 12th.

More needs to be done to help students attend and graduate from college, especially low-income students. As jobs of the future require ever higher levels of math, science, and analytical skills, the U.S. is falling behind at a time when we can’t afford to.