Increasing College Access and Success for Low Income Students


Increasing College Access and Success for Low Income Students

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
  • Policy briefs
  • 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.



Low-income Students and Opportunities for Higher Education

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.

Community College Career Technical Education Programs Significantly Increase Earnings
By Ann Stevens, Michal Kurlaender and Michel Grosz; UC Davis

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.[1]  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.

Article Sign up for e-news Michal Kurlaender

Charting Students’ Pathways out of Poverty
Education Researcher Studies the Pipeline from Middle School to College and Jobs

By Alex Russell

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 banner “AMAZING.”

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.

Training and the Labor Market
Harry Holzer in Conversation with Center Director Ann Stevens

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.”


Interventions to Increase College Access

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 college. 

Discussion of The History and Legacy of Title I
Sean Reardon, Stanford University

In this presentation, Sean Reardon discusses Sarah Reber’s paper, “The History and Legacy of Title I.”

Reardon is a Professor of Education and Sociology at Stanford University and Director of the Stanford Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Program in Quantitative Education Policy Analysis.

Discussion of Nutrition and Cognitive Achievement: An Evaluation of the School Breakfast Program
Chloe Gibbs, University of Virginia

In this presentation, Chloe Gibbs discusses David Frisvold’s paper “‘Nutrition and Cognitive Achievement: An Evaluation of the School Breakfast Program.”

Gibbs is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education at the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy as well as the Curry School of Education.

Higher Education
Caroline Hoxby in Conversation with Faculty Affiliates Michal Kurlaender and Scott Carrell

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. 


Helping Students Ensure College Success

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 leave poverty.

Post Training and the Labor Market

Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged
By Harry Holzer, 2015 Visiting Scholar

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 afterwards.

Article Michal Kurlaender

Obama’s free college plan is no panacea; just ask California
Michal Kurlaender publishes op-ed in the Washington Post

Washington Post, January 28, 2015

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.


California students’ debt less than in most states
By Ann Huff Stevens
The San Francisco Chronicle
December 26, 2013

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 the nation.