The value of a college degree is undisputed. A 2010 report from the College Board estimates that, among full-time workers, high school graduates earned a median annual income of $33,800; workers with an associate’s degree, $42,000; and, workers with a bachelor’s degree, $55,700.

Chapter 6 | Supporting Student Success in College

The information included on this webpage was excerpted from Chapter 6 of College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers, available in its entirety at

college building thought bubbleChapter 6, Part 2 | College Access and Completion Among Low-Income Students
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Statistics on College Access and Completion for Low-Income Students

While statistics about college students experiencing homelessness are scarce, quite a bit is known about college attrition and completion by low-income students. While the categories of low-income and homeless are not one in the same, given the poverty that often accompanies homelessness, statistics about low-income college students can provide useful information to inform efforts to support the college success of homeless students.

According to a 2008 report by The Pell Institute, entitled Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students, college enrollment statistics are encouraging, showing an overall increase in enrollment by students from historically underrepresented groups, including low-income and first-generation students. Statistics on college completion, however, tell a different story, showing an increasing gap in bachelor degree attainment between low-income and high-income youth. Specifically, the rate of bachelor degree completion among youth from low-income families increased from 6 percent to 12 percent between 1970 and 2005, while the rate among high-income youth increased from 40 percent to 73 percent during this same time period. This means that high-income youth are six times more likely to earn a four-year degree than are low-income youth, with the gap between the two groups having nearly doubled over the past several decades.

Dynamics of Low College Completion for Low-Income Students

With only a 12 percent bachelor degree completion rate among low-income youth, it is imperative that educators and youth-serving agencies gain a greater understanding of the dynamics behind this low completion rate and strategies for its improvement. A closer look at these statistics reveals two key dynamics:

  • While enrollment rates have increased, low-income youth continue to be less likely to attend college than their higher-income peers.
  • Among youth who do enroll in college, a growing and persistent gap in bachelor degree completion rate exists between high-income and low-income youth.

As these data indicate, it is not sufficient for policy makers and practitioners to focus solely on whether low-income students enroll in college; they also must focus on how they fare once enrolled.

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web series navigationUp Next: Part 3 | Two-year vs. Four-year Institutions: Considerations and Implications for Success

Web Series Navigation | Chapter 6
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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NAEHCY 2018 Conference
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The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015
Homeless Students in ESEA Reauthorization
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