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Knowledge From the Field

Portraits: Initial College Attendance of Low-Income Young Adults

Published: June 2011

Publisher(s): Institute of Higher Education Policy

Funder(s): Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

View Report (11 pages; 506KB; PDF)

Area of Focus: Preparation for College


The research brief examines the types of postsecondary institutions where low-income students initially enroll, since the likelihood of their completion of college strongly depends on where they begin their studies. The brief analyzes trends by gender and race/ethnicity and discusses the implications of the findings.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

=The majority of low-income young adults begin their postsecondary education at community colleges, while enrollment in four-year colleges is becoming less common and enrollment in for-profit institutions is dramatically increasing.

=Low-income females are twice as likely as low-income males to start at for-profit institutions and three times as likely as non-poor females to attend for-profits.

=Research suggests that community colleges may not have sufficient support mechanisms to help students persist through completion, and while students at for-profits succeed in earning certificates and associateís degrees, they have the lowest six-year bachelorís completion rates among four-year institutions.

=Young adults enrolled at community colleges and for-profit institutions are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of borrowing, such as being more at risk of defaulting on their student loans, and need assistance to make more informed choices.

Focus: National

Subjects/Keywords: Community College; Completion Rate; Financial Aid; For-Profit Institution; Four-Year College; Low-Income; Minority Student; Student Loan

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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