In March 2015, the Center hosted the conference “Increasing
College Access and Success for Low Income Students: Building on
New Research Domains.” This conference brought a unique mix of
researchers, policy professionals and leaders in education to
discuss new opportunities in education for low-income students.
In these pages, we have gathered conference presentations with
existing and new Center materials related to education:
Audio recordings of conference presentations and panels, as
well as slides
Facts and figures, as well as links to outside sources, that
provide a clearer picture of education in the U.S.
Central to our mission is the dissemination of poverty research.
We hope you will consider these pages a useful, ongoing resource
as we continue to add new work on U.S. poverty.
Students who grow up in poverty tend to have less access to
higher education. This severely limits their chances of leaving
poverty in their adult life. The first step in helping these
young people succeed in life as adults is to understand the
challenges they face early on.
National efforts to increase college attainment and to address
the nation’s skills gap have focused heavily on community
colleges. Understanding returns to community college programs is
particularly important for low-income students, since nearly half
of low-income students begin their college careers at community
colleges, compared to just 15 percent of high-income students.
Using administrative data from California, we find that
students who earn vocational certificates and degrees see large
earnings gains that vary substantially by course of study.
In the classroom at Kit Carson Middle School in Sacramento,
Michal Kurlaender sits at one of four small desks pushed to face
each other. The walls are papered in yellow, red and bright blue,
and wavy corrugated borders frame a flutter of papers under the
Kurlaender is interviewing a teacher as part of her evaluation of
the school’s teacher development program to improve students’
college readiness skills. The sudden, grating buzz of the class
bell startles everyone. Kurlaender smiles. “It’s nicer when it’s
the music instead,” she says.
In this podcast, Harry Holzer and Center Director Ann Stevens
discuss how colleges have taken on the role of building the U.S.
labor force. In March, 2015, Holzer visited the center as a
Visiting Scholar to present the seminar “Building Labor Market
Skills among Disadvantaged Americans.”
Although many students are fit to enter higher education, most
low-income students are faced with a lack of information about
the admissions process, financial aid and other requirements that
make it more challenging even to apply. Interventions geared
towards these students increases the chance they have to go to
In this podcast, visiting scholar Caroline Hoxby discusses her
Expanding College Opportunities Project with UC Davis Professor
of Economics Scott Carrell and Associate Professor of Education
Michal Kurlaender, including the project’s interventions with
college-bound, low-income, high-achieving students.
Half the problem is assisting students from low-income
backgrounds get to college, but the other half is helping them
succeed once there. These students face extra challenges in
college. Programs that provide assistance on campus, as well as
engagement from professors, can help them succeed in college and
A variety of technical certificates and Associates Degree
programs offer high payoffs in the job market, which can make a
difference for disadvantaged students. Instead, many students
choose general humanities programs at the AA or BA level that
have low rates of completion and lead to low-paying jobs
President Obama’s proposal to make community colleges free is a
valiant effort to address the rising demand for skilled workers
throughout the nation and to improve college access for
low-income students. As states consider his proposal, they would
be wise to look to California. Our research in the state suggests
that low tuition can put higher education within reach for many
low-income students, but it is no panacea. Even with high
participation levels and nearly free community college, many
California students do not complete degrees.
More bad news, it seems, on student debt: A new report from the
Institute for College Access and Success shows that more students
are borrowing, and those who do are borrowing more. For
California, however, there is a silver lining. The report shows
California has the second-lowest level of student borrowing in