Skip to main content

The Real Reason Poor Kids Don't Go To College

Go ahead and Google "Low-income students and why they don't go to college."  Or just click on that link. Come back when you think you know the answer.

I suspect you'll find lots of stuff about culture, lack of information, parental support, weak schools, or no college guidance.

But what if it's something else, like--I don't know--the perceived ability to pay?

Take a look at this Census Bureau data.  It shows changes in family income by quintile since 1967.  On the top is dollars (current or nominal) and the bottom is percent change since the first year shown.

You'll see that the lowest 20% and the lowest 40% haven't seen much growth in income over that time, compared to the top 5%.  (In case you don't know, 2012 dollars means everything is adjusted for inflation so you can compare a dollar today vs. a dollar at a time in the past.  Nominal dollars are not adjusted for inflation, but a "dollar" in 1973 is worth more than a "dollar" in 2012 due to inflation.)

But this is a long view; since 1967 things have gotten better, for the most part, for every group.  But try this: Set the filter to "2012 Dollars," then pull the filter slider to show a smaller window: For instance 1999 to 2012.  You'll see that family incomes on the top chart appear to be fairly flat compared to the longer view; but on the bottom, which is more granular, you can see that income for all bands has actually gone down. This is an extraordinarily post-WWII run for America.  And what's worse is that incomes have fallen faster for the lowest income families in the country.

What's happened to college tuition since then?  Private college tuition has risen by about 20%; public universities by 40% in constant dollars.  Federal aid has not kept pace; nor has state aid in most states.

So, maybe Occam's Razor, anyone?


Popular posts from this blog

The Highly Rejective Colleges

If you're not following Akil Bello on Twitter, you should be.  His timeline is filled with great insights about standardized testing, and he takes great effort to point out racism (both subtle and not-so-subtle) in higher education, all while throwing in references to the Knicks and his daughter Enid, making the experience interesting, compelling, and sometimes, fun. Recently, he created the term " highly rejective colleges " as a more apt description for what are otherwise called "highly selective colleges."  As I've said before, a college that admits 15% of applicants really has a rejections office, not an admissions office.  The term appears to have taken off on Twitter, and I hope it will stick. So I took a look at the highly rejectives (really, that's all I'm going to call them from now on) and found some interesting patterns in the data. Take a look:  The 1,132 four-year, private colleges and universities with admissions data in IPEDS are incl

Yes, your yield rate is still falling, redux (2021)

I've been creating this data visualization, or some form of it, for several years now .  I think it's most useful for higher education enrollment professionals who have to explain to people at their university why their yield rate is falling.  The short answer is that applications and admits are increasing faster than student populations: If a student today applies to an average of seven colleges, compared to four colleges twenty years ago, yield rate almost has to go down.  I'm sure AI will fix this, and all our problems, very soon. But I've spoken to others who use this other ways: To work with students to talk about chances for admission; to show parents how things have changed in the past twenty years; or to help journalists understand the lay of the land.  Whatever you use this for, I hope it's instructive, and I hope you feel free to share it widely. And if you work in a college or university and save yourself some time by using this, or if you work with clien

Freshman Migration, 1986 to 2020

(Note: I discovered that in IPEDS, Penn State Main Campus now reports with "The Pennsylvania State University" as one system.  So when you'd look at things over time, Penn State would have data until 2018, and then The Penn....etc would show up in 2020.  I found out Penn State main campus still reports its own data on the website, so I went there, and edited the IPEDS data by hand.  So if you noticed that error, it should be corrected now, but I'm not sure what I'll do in years going forward.) Freshman migration to and from the states is always a favorite visualization of mine, both because I find it a compelling and interesting topic, and because I had a few breakthroughs with calculated variables the first time I tried to do it. If you're a loyal reader, you know what this shows: The number of freshman and their movement between the states.  And if you're a loyal viewer and you use this for your work in your business, please consider supporting the costs