First, some good news: In recent decades, students from modest backgrounds have flooded onto college campuses. At many high schools where going to college was once exotic, it’s now normal. When I visit these high schools, I see college pennants all over the hallways, intended to send a message: College is for you, too.

And thank goodness for that message. As regular readers of this column have heard before, college can bring enormous benefits, including less unemployment, higher wages, better long-term health and higher life satisfaction.

Now for the bad news: The college-graduation rate for these poorer students is abysmal. It’s abysmal even though many of them are talented teenagers capable of graduating. Yet they often attend colleges with few resources or colleges that simply do a bad job of shepherding students through a course of study.


Note: Wealth categories are based on a person's parents' wealth when the person was 10-14 years old. Lowest wealth group is the bottom 40 percent of households; middle wealth is the middle 40 percent; upper wealth is the top 20 percent. Educational outcomes are at age 25. Source: Fabian Pfeffer, “Growing Wealth Gaps in Education,” the journal Demography. | By The New York Times


More Students, and Yet...

For the poorest wealth group, college attendance has risen, but college graduation has not.

The result is both counterintuitive and alarming. Even as the college-attendance gap between rich and poor has shrunk, the gap in the number of rich and poor college graduates has grown. That shouldn’t be happening.


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