More Low-Income Young Adults Are Beginning their Higher Education at For-Profit Colleges!

Dear Commons Community,

The following was sent to me by Ivonne Barreras, a doctoral student in the Ph.D. Program in Urban Education at the Graduate Center.
While attention from policymakers, higher education leaders, nonprofit groups, and the business community remains focused on college completion and loan debt, where students start their studies in large part determines the likelihood of completing a degree program and chances of facing long-term financial distress. A new brief, Portraits: Initial College Attendance of Low-Income Young Adults, published by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), suggests that poverty still matters a great deal in terms of the types of institutions at which young adults are initially enrolling. In particular, they find that low-income students—between ages 18 and 26 and whose total household income is near or below the federal poverty level—are likely to be overrepresented at for-profit institutions and are likely to be underrepresented at public and private nonprofit four-year institutions.

According to the brief, from 2000 to 2008, the percentage of low-income students enrolling at for-profits increased from 13 percent to 19 percent, while the percentage enrolling in public four-year institutions declined from 20 percent to 15 percent. Portraits also includes facts pointing to the significant differences by race and gender as low-income females on the whole were twice as likely as low-income males to start at a for-profit institution. For example, data from the brief show that more Black and Hispanic females from low-income backgrounds started at for-profit institutions than at both public and private four-year institutions combined.

Other findings include:

* There are 5.5 million more first-year students enrolled in postsecondary education than at the start of the 21st century; two out of every five of whom come from a low-income household
* Nineteen percent of low-income young adults were enrolled at for-profit institutions in 2008, versus 5 percent of their more financially prosperous peers
* Low-income female students from every racial/ethnic group are nearly three times as likely to attend for-profits as their higher-income female counterparts

A key question is what are the public four-year colleges and universities doing or not doing that is resulting in so many minority students opting to go to for-profit institutions.



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