Top 10 Colleges for Low-Income Students

Top 10 Colleges for Low-Income Students

Diversity. It’s such a wildly thrown around term. When we hear the word, however, we generally think of racial diversity and access of a variety of races to institutions, employment, and other organizations. While there is some relationship between minority groups and poverty, low income does represent an ethnic-neutral demographic. In short, anyone of any race can be defined as low-income.

And when it comes to access to a college education, low-income students are at a disadvantage.

Challenges of Low Income College Students

Low-income students have to work harder to fund their college educations. They have to find aid and loans wherever they can; they often have to work part-time, taking time away from their studies. The dropout rate among low income students is far higher than that of students whose educations are funded by their parents/families. So, what are colleges doing to reverse this trend? Here is a list with reviews of the top 10 schools that are doing the most for their low-income students, as identified by a New York Times College Access report in the fall of 2015.

Criteria for Ranking

In order to establish their ranking of colleges providing the most assistance to low-income students, the Times looked at 5-year graduation rates among these students, the awarding of Pell Grants (funds that do not have to be paid back), and the amount of endowment a school has to provide as additional aid to students identified as low income.

Colleges  for Low-Income Students – the Top 10 Players

1. University of California – Irvine


01 University of california - Irvine

    The University of California system has taken one of the tops spots for good reason. At Irvine, out of a freshman class of 5,549 in 2015, a full 40% received Pell grants, because family income levels were less than $70,000. The average net price of a year for middle-income students is $13 thousand, and the endowment expenditure for aid to lower-income students averages $11 thousand per enroll. On a college access index with 2.0 being the highest, this school ranks 1.91.

    2. University of California – Davis Campus

    02 University of california Davis

      This school ranks 1.62 on the access index and is in the 2nd place. Of its 5,063 freshman, 31% are receiving Pell Grants, and the school’s endowment is large – $24 thousand per student. This means that the average student from middle to low income demographics pays $14 thousand per year. A location just 15 miles from Sacramento, moreover, means that there are opportunities for work for students who need to supplement their loans and aid.

      3. University of California – Santa Barbara


        The fall of 2015 saw an enrollment of 4,597 freshmen, and 31% of them received Pell Grants, which virtually paid ½ of their tuition costs. The remaining cost for that year was $14 thousand. This meant that the college coughed up about $11 thousand per student, through endowments, to cover additional tuition and fees. On the College Access Index, Santa Barbara ranks 1.61. One of the good things about most schools in California is that the weather reduces some costs of living. Walking and biking are much easier due to the pleasant weather.


        4. University of California – San Diego

        04 University of California San Diegocampus-timeline

          One of the cleanest and most well-planned cities in California, this is an amazingly attractive spot for college students. It is also one of the most heavily endowed universities in the California state system. 28% of its 5,218 2015 enrolled freshmen received Pell Grants, and the average cost per year was $13 thousand in tuition and fees. San Diego offers additional financial aid to its low income students, based upon income tests. Its large endowment of $24 thousand per student goes toward this and toward continued improvements – these improvement costs do not have to be passed down to students.

          5. University of California – Los Angeles

          05 University of California Los Angeles

            With a $65 thousand endowment per student, this is the most heavily endowed campus of the entire state university system. Again, because endowment money can be spent on facility and curricular improvements, as well as research and development, tuition costs for students can remain low. Of the 5, 684 freshmen who enrolled in 2016, 28% received Pell Grants. An average tuition costs for middle-to-low income students was at $13 thousand/year. It has an access index scale of 1.53.

            6. University of Florida


            06 University of Florida

              Finally, we leave California and go to the opposite end of the country. A freshman class of 2015 numbered 6,348, and 245 were eligible for Pell Grants. This brought their net cost per year of tuition and fees to $9 thousand – quite a bargain. Its endowment is a bit lower than most schools above it on the index, and it has less to give to low-income students. However, the low tuition makes up for that. It has a 1.5 college access index.

              7. University of California – Berkeley

              07 UC Berkeley Campus

                Back to California we go. Of a freshman class of 4,677, 23% were in receipt of Pell Grants, bringing their net personal cost down to $13 thousand per year. It’s endowment is high – $92 thousand per student – and this allows the school to offer additional financial support to students who fall within low income brackets.

                8. Vassar – New York

                08 Thompson_Library_(Vassar_College)

                  It’s hard to get into Vassar, and as a much smaller private institution, it only admitted a freshman class of 622 in 2015. 22% of that population qualified for Pell Grants, and with an endowment of $352 thousand per student, the school is able to offer substantial financial assistance to needy students. Their out-of-pocket tuition and fees costs thus average a low $12 thousand a year.


                  9. Amherst – Massachusetts

                  09 Amherst College MA

                    Amherst’s access index is 1.33, largely due to is huge endowment – $930 thousand per student. While only 20% of its freshman class of 466 qualified for Pell Grants, the additional assistance low income students receive bring personal costs down to as low as $9 thousand a year. This is a bargain for needy students who can meet the rigorous academic and other requirements for admission.

                    10. Pomona – California

                    10 - Pomona College

                      This is a heavily endowed small private liberal arts college in Claremont, California, with a published tuition of almost $48,000 per year. In 2015, it enrolled 396 freshmen, and 18% of them received Pell Grants. Given that their endowment is about $940 thousand per student, Pomona has plenty to distribute to low-income students who qualify. When they do qualify, their tuition costs can be as low as $9 thousand a year. It has an access index rating of 1.32.

                      Obviously, plenty of other institutions are making strong efforts to make college more affordable for low-income students. These top ten, however, give at least a picture of what schools can do if they commit to attracting talented students from this demographic.


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                      Let’s face it.  We are living in a digital age, and there is absolutely no turning back. One of the biggest influences on society these days is social media. It affects us both positively and negatively. Social media was originally designed for people to share interesting facets of their lives with their friends, but it has become so much more than what it intended to be. It is now a medium for information to pass around the globe. In many cases, people first learn about current events through Twitter or Facebook before hearing about them from conventional news sources.

                      We also rely on technology for nearly everything we do. People these days seem as if they can’t go anywhere or do anything without their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. They need to be in constant contact with others via electronic devices.

                      However, there is also a downside to be too connected to social media and electronic devices. We are too dependent on them, which make us oblivious to what we are doing to ourselves. Being too connected can have a negative effect on our lives and the society as a whole. Here are 9 true illustrations that show how our society is negatively impacted because of the use of technology.

                      1. Facebook is eating away at your time.

                      Facebook is eating away your time

                        How much time do you usually spend each day on Facebook or other social networking sites? Is it hindering your productivity? Do you find yourself wasting time to a point where you don’t even know where it goes? If the answer is yes, Facebook might have eaten away at your time.


                        2. We’ve become “Likeaholics.”


                          When you are posting something on Facebook, are you doing it just to see how many of your friends will give it the proverbial thumbs up? This illustration shows that some people are treating “Likes” on Facebook as if it was a drug they needed to inject into their bloodstreams.

                          3. Our electronics have priority over our lives.


                            Given a choice between your dying phone battery or you dying, which will you choose? In this case, the man in this illustration chose to charge his phone over to sustain his own life. As a society, we need to be more careful of our priorities.


                            4. Families aren’t spending quality time together.

                            mother baking

                              Here is a mother making holiday cookies, but what are the kids doing? They are not making cookies with their mother. Instead, every one of them has their faces buried in their own electronic devices. Television used to be what parents use to babysit their kids. Now, it’s a tablet, phone, laptop or video game that does the job.

                              5.  We’d rather record someone than help them.


                                A lot is happening in this illustration. A black man is drowning and asking for help. One person has a gun pointed at him. The other person has their iPhone pointed at him and is recording the scene, but is not interested to help this man.


                                6. Society is sleeping, it’s sleeping its life away.

                                sleeping your life away

                                  Time is money. After we have wasted the long period of time on social media, we are losing the most valuable currency we have – our time in this world.

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                                  wanting what someone else is having

                                    There’s an old saying that goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” This illustration shows that despite all that we have, we are still not satisfied with our lives.


                                    8. Sensationalism still sells.

                                    free expression

                                      With the information overload that exists today, the media still looks for sensationalism. Here’s a woman who feels she has something important to say, but the media only cares about her because she is naked. Would the news media still have microphones in front of her if she wasn’t standing there topless?

                                      9. In the end, with all of this, we are still killing the planet.

                                      gun to mother earth

                                        This last illustration argues that despite all of our technological gains, we are still polluting the earth as if we have a virtual gun pointed at Mother Nature. As we build bigger cities and higher technology, how much more damages can we continue to do before putting our lives at risk?


                                        Featured photo credit: Jens Johnsson via

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