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College Grad-Rate Information Key for Lower-Income Parents

Much attention has been focused on helping disadvantaged students get information about, apply to, and enroll in college. Now a new study tells us that knowing the respective graduation rates of colleges is a particularly powerful tool for low-income, less-informed parents.

If you've tracked college-access issues, you might be tempted to assume that wealthier, better-educated parents would be the ones to benefit most from having this information. After all, it's typically those parents who have the social capital (and sense of entitlement, I've always thought) to hunt down information and use it to advocate for their children. Lower-income, less-informed parents often lack the knowledge or experience to navigate the information and education systems, and can feel shut out.

That's why this study from the American Enterprise Institute, "Filling in The Blanks," is interesting. It found that when presented with graduation-rate information about two public colleges, lower-income, less-educated parents were even more likely than their more-advantaged peers to choose the one with the higher graduation rate. For obvious reasons, then, the study authors advocate federal rules requiring colleges to publicize their six-year graduation rates to help parents make better-informed choices. High school counselors should make sure they get and share graduation-rate information, too, they say.

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