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New Report from Young Invincibles: A Blueprint for Higher Education Equity

March 1, 2017
Contact: Sarah Schultz,, 202-734-6510

New Report from Young Invincibles: A Blueprint for Higher Education Equity

An in-depth look at why race remains a barrier to degree attainment and what we can do to begin closing the gaps

[Washington, D.C.] — Today, Young Invincibles released its latest report, Race & Ethnicity as a Barrier to Opportunity: A Blueprint for Higher Education Equity. The report takes an in-depth look at the disproportionate challenges students of color face to achieving higher education attainment. The findings show that while overall attainment has increased for Black and Latino students, the attainment gaps between these groups and their white peers have actually widened in the last thirty years. Today’s economy increasingly demands a high quality postsecondary education to be competitive in the workforce, making these disparities troubling. Young Invincibles looked critically at the key stages of students’ higher education experiences – affording and accessing school, completing a quality education, and repaying their loans – to reveal the unique barriers faced at each. A few of the key findings include:

  • Access and Affordability: Even after financial aid, Black and Latino families dedicate 48 and 31 percent of their income to the cost of college, respectively, compared to only 24 percent for white families.
  • Attainment and Success: In 2015, just over 36 percent of white adults had completed four years of school. Black and Latino adults’ attainment rate sat at roughly 22 and 15 percent. These gaps have grown wider in the last thirty years.
  • Repayment and Outcomes: Four years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree, Latino students are twice as likely to have defaulted on their loans, while African American students are three and a half times more likely than white peers.

“We’re on track to be a majority-minority nation in our lifetime, yet right now our higher education system is leaving behind the very people our nation’s economy will soon rely on to lead us into the future,” said Christopher Nellum, Ph.D., Policy Director for Young Invincibles. “Insufficient public policy and institutional practices are failing to level the playing field for young people of color. We need interventions and solutions that will close racial opportunity gaps, in turn providing better income and financial stability for young people of color and our nation’s economy.”

In the report, Young Invincibles makes a series of federal policy recommendations to begin closing these gaps, including how to give students the tools and support they need to access college, complete a degree, and manage student loan debt. These solutions include: establishing and expanding protections for students against predatory colleges, improving financial aid systems such as federal work study and Pell grants, and simplifying the loan repayment process.