The United States fails to do right by most low-income students who excel in school. They overcome long odds and do well enough in high school to show they can thrive in college. Nevertheless, many never receive a bachelors degree.
Now, though, the country may be approaching something of a turning point.
As data has made clear how many top-performing students from poor and middle-class families fall through the cracks, a range of institutions have set out to change the situation. Dozens of school districts, across 15 states, now help every high school junior take the SAT. Delawares governor has started a program to advise every college-qualified student from a modest background on the application process. The president of the College Board, which administers the SAT and has a decidedly mixed record on making college more accessible, says his top priority is college access.
On Tuesday, a handful of institutions will announce an ambitious new effort on this front. Led by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the coalition is setting a specific goal for which it can be held accountable. Today, only about one in three top-performing students from the bottom half of the income distribution attends a college with a high six-year graduation rate (at least 70 percent). Within five years, the Bloomberg coalition wants to raise that to one in every two students.