College Access

About this Policy

Every person should have access to the tools they need to build financial security – this includes access to a college education. We know that higher education is one of the most effective tools we have to promote economic mobility. Unfortunately, for too many families college is out of reach.

Policy Highlights

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    Disparities in College Access

    Cost of College: College is already very expensive, and unfortunately the costs keep rising. Costs at public universities have risen 60% in the past two decades. As a result, many families may not believe it is a realistic path.

    Financial Aid is Not Enough: Financial aid is meant to help families afford college, but for a lot of families financial aid isn’t enough. Many low-income students do not receive enough financial aid. For example, financial aid falls short by about $7,000 for low-income families.

    With so much un-met financial need, many students may decide not to enroll in college or, if they do, they may not be able to complete college. This leads to very different outcomes for kids from low-income and high-income families. Children from high-income families are 6 times more likely to complete college by age 25 than low-income children.

    College Completion: College graduates earn 65% more over the course of their lifetimes than people with high school degrees, but people of color and low-income people attend college at disproportionately low rates. Just 20% of African Americans and 15% of Latinos graduate from college, compared to 40% of whites. Additionally, 52% of low-income high school graduates attend college compared to 82% of high-income high school graduates.

    Universal Children’s Savings Accounts

    Brighter Futures Campaign:  We believe that Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) can play a significant role in closing the achievement gap. When savings program policies are well-designed, it is possible for low-income people to successfully save, despite how difficult it is to do so on a limited budget.

    Savings accounts have important behavioral benefits that increase the likelihood of college attendance and success. Research on pilot programs finds that college savings accounts help foster a college-going mentality for both parents and children by increasing parents’ expectations of their children’s educations, and improving children’s orientation towards the future, even at a very early age. Once students get to college, having assets—particularly college savings—contributes positively towards their college progress. Learn more & join our Brighter Futures Campaign.

     

     

    Removing Barriers to College

    Student Loan Debt: Financial aid policy should ensure that students from low-income households can get a college education without taking on overwhelming debt or excessive outside work, which reduces the odds of completing a degree. We also support stronger regulation of private student loans that prey on students, leaving many with a crushing debt burden.

    Criminal Records: Education can be an important tool for a person trying to become financially stable after being incarcerated. Illinois must increase educational opportunities for people with criminal records by “banning the box” in the admissions process for Illinois higher education institutions. Schools should not consider previous arrests or convictions of college applicants. With about 42% of Illinois adults having a criminal record, removing this barrier would have a big impact, giving people a fair chance to rebuild their lives after being incarcerated.

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