College Prep Helps Low-Income Students Attain Bachelors Degrees

Research shows that college prep leads students from low-income households to a better chance of attaining bachelors degrees.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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There has long been a stigma surrounding low-income families that they are unable to attain college degrees – and plenty of research and data backs that theory up. Yes, it’s true that more impoverished students are attending college than ever before, however, fewer are actually attaining their degrees. A new study says that college prep can help these students not only attain a college degree, but more so a four-year bachelor’s degree.

The 74 Million recently released a report that shows how exactly college prep helps low-income students attain a bachelor’s degree. The publication looked at data from UChigago Urban labs, which studied more than 7,000 Chicago Public High School students who were enrolled in a program known as OneGoal. In conclusion, the researchers found that low-income student participants in the program had a 40% greater chance of earning a bachelor’s degree over their peers who were not enrolled in the program.

To come up with these findings, the lab studied high school seniors over a time frame ranging from 2011 to 2020. Furthermore, they found that students enrolled in the college prep program were 46% more likely to enroll in college. Likewise, 47% of them were more likely to come back to college after their first year over similar students not enrolled. 

OneGoal is a college prep program that has been giving aid to junior and senior high school students for more than 15 years. It serves over 14,000 low-income students nationwide in inner-city schools in Chicago, Houston, New York City, Atlanta, and the California Bay Area. OneGoal’s CEO, Melissa Connelly, came up with the idea for the initiative because she herself struggled in school. Nearing dropout from high school, she credits a social worker that helped her turn her life around, and additionally guided her to college with help in filling out financial aid documents and more. If it wasn’t for this counselor’s help, she’s not sure she would be where she is today.

Understanding the need for college prep, especially for impoverished students, Connelly created OneGoal. The effort, which is largely funded by philanthropic contributions from donors, has an utmost mission to win over student’s trust before aiding them in college endeavors. Enrollees in the program start their journey in their junior year, taking college prep classes daily. They close the year by listing off colleges they aspire to attend. Shifting gears during the senior year of high school, they further examine that list and receive help applying to various schools. They also receive guidance on filling out transcriptions, obtaining letters of recommendation, writing college essays, and filling out financial aid forms. 

OneGoal also understands how important it is to stay involved with college prep even after these students are college freshmen. They stay in the program through their first year in college. The program consists of check-ins with staff members to make sure things are running smoothly for the students. 

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The college prep initiative estimates that there are nearly 1.4 million low-income juniors in public high schools across the nation. Because of this, the effort is looking to expand into new territories, with the hope to reach more students. College might not be right for everyone, but this college prep program hopes to make it easier for those wishing to receive a degree, but feel like they cannot, a little more accessible.