Poverty Exacerbates the Problem
Eighth and ninth grades are especially challenging for youth in poverty. These young people are typically less academically proficient than their affluent peers, have to navigate daily life with peers who are disengaged from school and involved in risky activities, too often have absent or undereducated parents, and may need to supplement their family income.
Poor youth are also more likely to experience:
- Low aspirations, reinforced by low expectations;
- A lack of interest in what they are learning and an inability to connect it to potential careers;
- A lack of future-orientation;
- An inability to understand the importance of education in realizing personal aspirations and the long-term benefits of deferring economic opportunity;
- An underdeveloped ability to set goals;
- Few positive role models;
- Inadequate engagement in learning activities outside of school.
A limited culture of college-going in the families and communities of poor youth exacerbates the problem. Poor youth are more likely to have parents who do not understand or communicate the importance of postsecondary education and have limited knowledge about the range of postsecondary options that are available to their children. Similarly, poor families are likely to have:
- Limited or no knowledge about how to prepare for and apply to postsecondary education, including a lack of awareness about the vital importance of academic preparation in the early years of high school;
- A lack of access to external resources available to more affluent peers, such as information networks, guidance counselors, college prep courses, and early information about options for financing education; and
- A belief that they cannot afford the cost of postsecondary education.
These factors often lead low-income youth to reach graduation having failed to take the steps, early in their high school careers, to prepare for and meet the critical qualifying milestones for college admission.