Searching for and applying to colleges can be a tough process to navigate for even the most prepared and supported students. Low-income students face some unique struggles throughout the process, no matter how high-achieving they may be. Over 2/3 of students from low-income backgrounds attend community or for-profit colleges and often face lower graduation rates than their higher-income peers. Why is this?
Not only do low-income students tend to have fewer financial resources, they also tend to lack the proper advising and personalized information that is needed to move successfully to and through college. According to College Advising Corps , the national ratio of students to advisors is more than 450 to 1. This huge imbalance leads to students receiving general and vague information throughout a process that demands personalization and specificity for success.
At home, low-income students continue to face discrepancies in college support. Many low-income students are also first-generation college students, so their families aren’t familiar enough with the college process to provide sufficient knowledge and support. Families often get “sticker shock” when they see the full tuition costs of private and independent schools, not knowing the availability of need-based financial aid and other scholarship opportunities. As a result, it’s difficult for low-income and first-generation students to assess college options beyond community and state institutions. Many high-achieving students ultimately enroll in colleges that don’t necessarily match their credentials because they’re not receiving the advising needed to reach more selective schools.
There are tons of resources available to students applying to college - if students know where to find them. Mentoring and advising programs are doing incredible work around the country to ensure that students obtain access to college information. However, when low-income students don’t have advisors to point them to college resources and inadequate Internet connectivity to find the resources themselves, the college-going process can feel like an impossible struggle. One of the most effective ways to reach large numbers of low-income students with simplified information and personalized counseling is through text messaging. With increases in matriculation and persistence and decreases in student loan borrowing, the value of texting as a college advising tool, particularly for low-income students, is becoming clearer every day.