Course, Counselor, and Teacher Gaps: Addressing the College Readiness Challenge in High-Poverty High Schools ​


College degree attainment is widely seen as a key step to reduce poverty and move low-income families and individuals into the middle class. Unfortunately, a college education is more difficult to access for students who grow up in poverty, and far too many low-income students do not attend or complete college.

“Improving postsecondary enrollment and completion requires that we address resource disparities between affluent high schools and those in communities of concentrated poverty.”

“There is overwhelming evidence that high-quality schools with strong teachers who understand the dynamics of poverty can overcome obstacles and help students achieve.”

“Guidance counselors are pivotal to the success of high school students. They assist students in cultivating their interests, as well as identifying academic strengths and areas for improvement.”


  • Improve the balance of experienced and new teachers. Teacher quality is the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement.
  • Offer high-quality instruction, rigorous coursework, and a range of college-prep courses so students of color can develop the skills needed to achieve in postsecondary education and secure good jobs.
  • Increase the number of guidance counselors in high-poverty schools. They help students explore and select postsecondary opportunities aligned with their interests and goals, assess their skills and readiness, and explain their financial options.
  • Partner with institutions of higher education. The transition from high school to college can be difficult for low-income and first-generation students. They may need transition supports, including intentional and early outreach regarding postsecondary options, college and career counseling, assistance with application processes, and early exposure to college campuses and postsecondary experiences.