Which Low-Income Students Beat the Odds to Get College Success and Payoffs, and What Advice do Counselors Give Them?

To what extent do community college enrollment, career and technical education, and vocational certification and training programs improve academic and employment outcomes for low-income youth?

The 2015 “New Forgotten Half” analysis revealed that, although economic inequalities in college attendance have diminished in recent years, gaps remain in the completion rates between low-income and higher-income students. Despite the consequences of enrolling in but not completing college, including increased debt and stagnant earning potential, many high schools still adopt the strategy of encouraging all high-school students to attend college. Rosenbaum and his colleague will examine how high-school counselors understand post–high-school options (including one-year certificates and two-year associate degrees) and advise students of varying income levels; what they know about their students’ post-high school careers; and whether their advice varies according to the academic achievement, effort, and course history of students at different income levels. To gain these insights, the team will conduct pilot interviews with counselors from Chicago public schools and those in nearby suburbs. In addition to this exploratory work, the team will code and analyze administrative records from the Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS:2002-2012) to reveal how participation in career and technical education courses and student effort (including attendance and class preparedness) are associated with students’ educational and occupational attainment and earnings within each credential type. Through this work, Rosenbaum hopes to provide high school counselors with insights on how to better advise low-income students and contribute to the field’s understanding of the various pathways that can lead to college completion and career success.

Subscribe for Updates