How Public Universities Can Promote Access and Success for All Students
Higher education has long been a path to economic security, and this is especially true for low-income students, first-generation college students, and students of color. Current demographic trends show that non-Hispanic whites will no longer comprise a majority of the U.S. population by 2050, when they will make up just 47 percent of the population. Already, half of all U.S. births are children of color. At the same time, middle-class earnings have stagnated, and poverty is becoming more widespread. As the population continues to change, it is increasingly important to future economic security that degree-attainment rates reflect the nation’s changing demographics. The nation’s public universities—a key vehicle of upward mobility—must do more to even the playing field for all students. As it currently stands, students from the least advantaged populations earn degrees at a lower rate and are burdened with a greater portion of debt than their peers. However, some standout public universities are reversing these trends by committing to need-based funding, offering successful student support programs, and providing institutional leadership. As both communities of color and the poverty rate continue to grow, it is economically imperative to improve the value of college for the least advantaged students.