Why We Do What We Do

Traditionally disadvantaged students often suffer from a poverty of aspiration as well as a poverty of information about possibilities for life after high school. Since most of them will be first-generation college students, they have no one at home with experience to explain to them the benefits of higher education or the knowledge about how to get through the complex application process.

We have found that with minimal intervention (and minimal per pupil cost), students in large numbers take advantage of the opportunity for postsecondary education that they learn about through the materials in their classes.

  • 73% of the students who've used our materials go on to some form of postsecondary education. This is as opposed to 34% of students going to college from their schools normally.
  • 93% of RFC students go to 4-year colleges or to universities, 6% go to 2-year colleges, 1% go to training or tech schools.
  • 51% stay in college and are on track for graduation as opposed to 28% of students in the lowest two income quartiles nationally.

There is a national imperative now for increasing college access and success.

This is the first generation in history where parents in the U.S. will be more educated than their children. "The nation's competitive edge is slipping away."1 "The United States now ranks 10th among industrialized nations in the percentage of 25-34 year olds with an Associates degree or higher."2 The U.S. will have to ramp up just to keep up to match leading nations to meet domestic workforce needs. The U.S. will need to produce 64 millions new degrees in the next 20 years.3

This is a matter of having a fixed capacity versus a growing capacity of knowledge for innovation and social mobility. Where will these new graduates come from? This gap cannot be filled without a strong commitment to erasing racial and ethnic disparities in educational attainment.4

The U.S. needs to look to an under-tapped source of students who are motivated and capable but hindered from higher education by the accident of birth.

Even the most high-achieving students in low-income families are hindered from college attendance and graduation because of poverty. Only 29% of the highest achieving students from the lowest income quartile earned a Bachelor's degree compared with 74% from the highest income quartile.5 This has changed little in 35 years.6

It is not just the cost of college that hinders these students, though that is significant, but also these factors:

  • the poor quality of K-12 education they have received
  • their belief that they are not 'college-material'
  • the often-times disrupted families in which they've been raised with few adults who have experienced higher education to help them through the application process
  • lack of information about college options, opportunities, and how to access these

Despite all these strikes against them, these students, like all youth, are idealistic and energetic, eager to learn, grow and change their life circumstances. RFC wants to tap into the great, unrealized potential of these students who have so much to offer their communities. We want to uplift our society by unleashing the creativity, intelligence and industriousness of these young people.

1"Adding it Up: State and National Imperative",
2Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2008.
3"Adding it Up: State and National Imperative",
5"Low income hinders college attendance for even the highest achieving students", Economic Policy Institute, Oct. 2005.
6Bachelor's Degree completion by age 24 rates are:

  • 24.5% in bottom income quartile ($0-39,500)
  • 30.5% in second quartile ($30,501-$68,925)
  • 47.6% in third quartile ($68,926-$116,050)
  • 94.6% in top quartile ($116,051 and above)

"Family Income and Educational Attainment 1970-2007," Postsecondary Education Opportunity, Public Policy Analysis of Opportunity for Postsecondary Education, November, 2008.

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