This report profiles strategies progressive institutions are deploying to support low-income and minority students on the path to a postsecondary institution that is most likely to support their success.
Disparities in postsecondary degree attainment have grown or remained unchanged over recent years, as underrepresented students disproportionately enroll in institutions that are unlikely to support them to graduation.
The good news: A sizeable difference in high school students’ educational trajectory can be made even at this late stage in their education.
Based on interviews with more than 100 K–12 leaders representing school districts and organizations nationwide, this study explores 14 practices in depth to improve college access for low-income and minority students. Download the full study or explore each section below.
Create a Culture of High Expectations
Low-income and minority students often face lower expectations of college attendance from themselves and others. While difficult to overcome the weight of these entrenched attitudes, it is critical for districts to counter these expectations if they hope to address inequities in college access. District-wide policies and processes must reinforce college-going expectations for underrepresented students.
- Practice 1: College Access Accountability Dashboard
- Practice 2: Parent University
- Practice 3: Noncognitive College-Identity Curriculum
- Practice 4: Shared-Experience Video Campaign
Build Student Confidence Through Advanced Course Work
Many low-income and other at-risk students continue to be heavily underrepresented in college-level classes (such as AP, IB, or Dual Enrollment). Overcoming apprehension about increasing access to college-level courses as well as skepticism over whether underrepresented students are really up for the challenge can both be major barriers to advancing equity goals.
Districts should increase those students’ access to advanced coursework in order to boost both their academic credentials and their confidence in being successful in postsecondary education.
- Practice 5: Advanced-Course Placement Matrix
- Practice 6: AP Summer Bridge Program
- Practice 7: Teacher-Led AP Best Practice Training
Ensure College Choice Focuses on Likelihood of Success
Often the first in their family to attend college, underrepresented students are likely to lack information about college options. Despite the critical necessity for at-risk students to make informed choices, schools largely leave students to develop a list of institutions on their own and then work with them to refine and narrow those options.
As a result, students often have no way to discern whether any given school will best support their success. Both technology based college matching tools and college advising processes should focus students and families on institutions that will support their postsecondary success.
- Practice 8: Background-Conscious College Matching Tools
- Practice 9: Success-Focused College Counseling
- Practice 10: College Transition Partnerships
Remove Barriers to Application and Matriculation
Underrepresented students often face a greater number of barriers to college and have less support to overcome them. As a result, even academically strong underrepresented students who have been admitted to college fail to matriculate in the fall after high school graduation. Through organized events, targeted counseling processes, and behavioral nudges, districts can better support low-income and minority students in their progress toward successful college enrollment.
- Practice 11: Summer College Application Camp
- Practice 12: Dedicated Financial Aid Support Expert
- Practice 13: Just-in-Time Summer Text-Message Reminders
- Practice 14: Transition-Targeted Micro-Scholarships