Our Work

The Problem

Lack of college affordability and high student debt are economic justice issues.


The nation’s $1.7 trillion in student debt is fueled by lack of transparent college costs and a confusing financial aid process. There are interrelated issues of college affordability, student success and debt.

Lack of college affordability…

  • Getting a college degree is one of the biggest factors in breaking the cycle of generational poverty, yet college degrees are unaffordable for many.
  • There are limited affordable school options, which leads to low graduation rates and high student debt.
  • The average amount of assistance a high school student receives from college counselors or advisors is only 38 minutes across four years.

…And barriers to student success…

  • A college degree is extremely valuable but difficult to get due to the many challenges students face along the way.
  • College students continue to face hurdles even after they’ve enrolled in school. Whether it’s the high cost of attending school, confusion about continuing financial aid and eligibility, or personal time constraints, college success is increasingly precarious for many students. 
  • Only 11% of low-income students attain a college degree, compared to 58% of high-income students.

…Lead to student loan debt

  • Due to the lack of clear financial information and lower cost options, students are forced to take out exorbitant loans to pay for college.
  • Confusion behind the language of financial aid award letters is a primary driver of the postsecondary opportunity gap. Award letters are often filled with jargon and formatted in misleading ways, plus missing basic information about financial aid options and clarity on next steps.
  • Nearly 60% of the outstanding student debt is held by Pell recipients. 19 million borrowers, or 31% of the total outstanding debt, did not complete their degree.

How Financial Aid Barriers Affect Opportunities

moneythink report icon

After interviewing students on college campuses across the country, we published a report to share our findings.

(Source: Moneythink, Financial Need and Ownership: Student Perspectives on Postsecondary Persistence)

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It is difficult to find colleges that will be both affordable and supportive.

(Source: Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price)

moneythink student thinking

The complex financial aid system makes it challenging to secure financial support.

(Source: Castelman & Page, Summer Melt)

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Students must balance an often overwhelming combination of academics, job, and family support.

(Source: Godrick-Rab, Paying the Price)

We are driven by a distinct vision to build a future that promotes economic justice for all. Learn more.