The aspiration to attain a college degree has become nearly universal among high school students, and the percentage of students making the immediate transition to college has risen among all racial and ethnic groups. While college enrollment is now a reachable goal, the proportion of students who complete a college degree has barely changed. Moreover, despite increases in enrollment, minority students continue to lag in both four-year college enrollment and degree completion rates. The primary issue in college access is no longer building college aspirations, but building a clear path for students to achieve their goals.

Several barriers face students, particularly urban, minority students, as they attempt to bridge the gap between their educational aspirations and college degree attainment. Over the past several years, the policy discussion has coalesced around three central explanations: poor academic preparation that undermines minority and low-income students’ access to and performance in college, students’ difficulties in navigating the college enrollment process, and the declining real value of financial aid combined with rising college costs.

This material was published by the Center for American Progress.