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Report: College Aspirations Fall Short of Reality for Many Low-Income Students

Many low-income students have high aspirations when it comes to college. However, they often don't have the means or preparation to enroll and succeed.

New research out July 17 from ACT Inc. and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships finds that while 95 percent of ACT-tested students from low-income families said they wish to pursue some type of postsecondary education, only 59 percent enroll in college right after high school. Overall, 87 percent of all ACT-tested graduates indicate they want to go to college and 71 percent of them do.

There is also a gap in preparation by wealth, the report finds. Just 69 percent of students from low-income families who took the ACT had completed the recommended core curriculum in high school (four years of English and three years each of mathematics, social studies and science), compared with 84 percent of students from high-income families.

Only 20 percent of students from low-income families met at least three of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, compared with 62 percent of students from high-income families. Forty-nine percent of students from low-income families met none of the benchmarks. The benchmarks are scores on the ACT subject-area tests that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses 

The report is based on an analysis of information from approximately 1.8 million ACT-tested high school graduates from the U.S. class of 2013. Nearly 430,000 of those students identified themselves as coming from low-income families.

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