August 23rd, 2010

In today’s Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper of IHEP notes some of the benefits to increasing college access for low-income young adults. At the same time, she’s realistic about the obstacles that remain:

“Obtaining a college degree or other advanced credential has proven to be a critical factor in producing both individual and societal benefits. It is often education that breaks generational cycles of poverty. Yet it is troubling to know that 1 in 10 impoverished young adults who have a postsecondary degree still fail to immediately get out of poverty.

This is an alarming trend because these students already face greater academic and financial risks than their more well-off peers when attempting to complete college.

Who are these low-income young adults? According to our recent report at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), A Portrait of Low-Income Young Adults in Education, there are 35.2 million low-income young adults in the United States who are between the ages of 18 and 26, and whose parents’ income or their own (if financially independent) is up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

…For many low-income young adults, pursuing a college degree involves taking bold steps toward bridging education, careers, and employment. And from a national perspective, higher education success among poor young people puts us closer to achieving our national college completion goals or enjoying the anticipated economic boost that a more educated workforce will generate.”

Asha Cooper adds that young adults with a college degree still face many obstacles: degree values vary, local labor markets fluctuate, and the economic recession may hinder job availability. However, she says, an increasing number of jobs in the future will rely on secondary degrees – and a college degree is still the fastest route out of poverty.

What can we do to increase college access here in Alabama?

Our Higher Education Alliance will address this issue at our Lifetime of Learning Conference, September 17 at Auburn University Montgomery. We’ll bring together presentations on college access, student retention, and service-learning with some of the most engaged and creative people from colleges and universities across the state.

Learn about models of community outreach and service-learning that are making an impact today.

  • Christianna Russell of Auburn’s Loachapoka partnership will present the K-12 and community initiatives connecting Loachapoka families to the Auburn campus.
  • Cindy Walker of Faulkner will talk about connecting student athletes to at-risk kids in the community in a mentoring and service-learning partnership.
  • Athens State will present best practices for implementing a Success program in a local middle school.

Higher education faculty, staff, students, and other community partners are invited. Check out more of our scheduled agenda here. Be sure to register by August 31 for the early-bird registration rate.Contact Hannah Selles for more information.

Posted by Robyn Hyden