Socioeconomic gaps in college enrollment and attainment have widened over time, despite increasing returns to postsecondary education and significant policy efforts to improve access.
This paper describes the barriers that students face during the transition to college and review the evidence on potential policy solutions. It focuses on research that examines causal relationships using experimental or quasi-experimental methods, as well as descriptive evidence to provide context.
This review is distinctive in three respects:
- First, in addition to the literature on financial aid, it examines the evidence on informational and behavioral interventions, academic programs, and affirmative action policies intended to improve college access.
- Second, it incorporates a wealth of recent research not included in prior reviews.
- Finally, it conceptualizes college access broadly, as including not just whether but also where students attend and whether they have access to college-level courses.