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Low-income college students are being left behind

The Higher Education Act of 1965 was supposed to make college more affordable for all students, but according to a new book of essays, Americas Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education, low-income students are still far less likely to attend college.

In an interview in USA Today, the books editor, Richard Kahlenberg, shared some startling statistics:

•High-income students are more than six times as likely to obtain a bachelors degree within five years as low-income students.
The Higher Education Act of 1965 was supposed to make college more affordable for all students, but according to a new book of essays, “America's Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education,” low-income students are still far less likely to attend college.

In an interview in USA Today, the book's editor, Richard Kahlenberg, shared some startling statistics:

•High-income students are more than six times as likely to obtain a bachelor's degree within five years as low-income students.

•While the maximum Pell Grant covered about 40 percent of the average cost of attending a four-year private college in the mid-1970s, it now covers about 15 percent.

•Among the nation's top 146 colleges, 74 percent of students come from the highest economic quartile, and 3 percent from the poorest.

•Within two years of graduating high school, two-thirds of the wealthiest 25 percent of students enroll in a four-year college. Only one in five from the bottom 25 percent do so.

The book's experts suggest that financial aid to low-income students can be improved by restoring the Pell Grant to its 1970s levels, doubling the size of Gearup and Trio programs and encouraging elite schools to provide affirmative action for poor and working-class students.