Education Guide / Issues
WHAT DOES THE EVIDENCE SAY?
The average cost of a four-year college is close to $24,000 a year and rising. And very often, students are not admitted to four-year institutions due to gaps in their K-12 education. At the same time, the national three-year graduation rate for public community colleges, often the most affordable option, is just 20 percent. At four-year colleges with an open-admissions policy, 34 percent of students graduate within six years.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Reporting on college access requires looking at the full range of obstacles. Many colleges now provide special access for low-income and first generation students, which may include financial aid and transportation assistance as well as lower requirements for standardized test scores or English proficiency, combined with tutoring programs to bring those students up to speed. Reporters should assess whether these programs improve enrollment and retention rates. Other important data include the percentage of students attending the school who receive federal grants due to low-income status; and, for public colleges, the percentage of students by race who are graduating from the public high schools compared with the percentage of that racial group enrolled in local public colleges.