Katie Brazis
May 2017

Low-Income Students Are Behind Before They Begin

It’s no secret that how much money a graduate makes is linked to his or her major and college. Additionally, it’s common knowledge that people with a college degree are generally better positioned to get well-paying jobs than people with only a high school degree.

For this reason, many people from low-income families decide to attend college, hoping it will put them in a good enough position later to pay off the debt that they try to minimize by working through school.

But studies are now showing that how well someone with a college degree is also linked to the economic circumstances of the student before attending college.

Wait. What?

A study by PayScale showed that economic status is very likely to be the same before and after attending and graduating from college. For example, those entering college from the top 25 percent household income bracket will more likely be in the top 25 percent income bracket mid-way through their career. The same goes for those in the bottom 25 percent.

Why does that happen? Wasn’t college supposed to be a great equalizer? Well, no one can really say for sure, but here are some possible reasons:

College Life

Low-income students don’t take the same opportunities as other students. Because they often need to work a paying job to get by, they miss out on potentially beneficial unpaid internships or networking opportunities.

Taking any Job

After they graduate and start applying for jobs — a process that often takes several months or longer — low-income students often take the first job offered to them just to start working as soon as possible. This approach may seem necessary, but it increases the potential to miss out on a better, higher paying offer.

Lack of Connections

Students from wealthy families often have more connections in a chosen field and are more likely to land a higher-paying job through referral than someone completely new to the company.

Fitting Company Culture

Recruiters and hiring managers looks for culture and personality as much as talent or skill set when determining whether a candidate fits in. In some cases, they may think low-income candidates don’t fit into a company’s culture because of a difference in mannerisms and unspoken norms between different social classes.

Whatever the reasons, research shows that low-income students are disadvantaged after college just as they were before. In addition to the tendency for low-income students to accumulate more debt through college, it’s no surprise that so many people fall behind on payments.


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Katie Brazis

Katie is a Content Coordinator with a BA in English and a Certificate in Editing and Publishing from CSU, Chico, and a Certificate in Copyediting from UC San Diego Extension. In addition to her professional history in editing, she has a deep love of stories. In her free time — when she’s not trying to tame the wild beast she calls her cat — Katie consumes stories in any form. She reads books and watches shows and movies. She plays cooperative games, both video and board, with her husband and friends. When she chooses to venture outside she keeps her phone handy to catch some virtual Pokemon.

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