Financial challenge is the critical barrier for college graduation.

When students are unprepared for the financial decisions of college, unforeseen problems get in the way.

The affordability of college varies enormously, but there are no easy ways for students to differentiate between affordable quality colleges versus expensive schools with poor outcomes.

Less than 5% of 4-year colleges

are considered affordable for low-income students.

70% of college dropouts

leave school due to pressing financial concerns.

Public Agenda

Students and families only know the cost of attending a college once they have been accepted and have received a financial aid award

However these documents are so confusing that students commonly misinterpret them or don’t use them when deciding where to attend. Not being prepared to cover the cost of college is a major cause of dropout and a leading cause of unnecessary student debt.

143 unique phrases

are used in Award Letters to describe federal loans

30% of award letters

include grants, but don’t include college costs to compare against

Less than 33%

of award letters differentiate between aid & loans, making it difficult to know what families actually need to pay.

Out of 100 low-income high school graduates, only 16 will complete a bachelors degree in 6 years.

The Pell Institute

How financial barriers affect opportunity

It is difficult to find colleges that will be both affordable and supportive.
The complex financial aid system makes it challenging to secure financial support.
Students must balance an often overwhelming combination of academics, job, and family support.
With very little free time, it's almost impossible for under-resourced students to proactively seek help.
After interviewing over 90 students on 7 different University and College campuses in 2016, we published our report, 'Financial Need and Ownership: Student Perspectives on Postsecondary Persistence,' to share our findings.

We're working on a solution.

Understanding the problem is just the first step. Learn what we're doing to grow opportunity.

See Our Work