Developing State Policy that Supports Low-income, Working Students

Current postsecondary policies fall short of addressing students’ multiple roles as parents, workers, and students. Moreover, when existing policies do not place equity front and center, they fail to target the systemic barriers holding back students of color.

States recognize these weaknesses in existing postsecondary policies and have led the way on college completion and achievement initiatives that involve retrofitting systems designed for traditional students to meet the needs of today’s low-income students.

A new report by Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, Rosa García, Lauren Walizer and Carrie Welton lays out an action framework to support the educational success of low-income, working students, particularly students of color. The framework is designed to help states expand their policies beyond the traditional postsecondary landscape to acknowledge the complexity of these students’ lives. The framework also underscores why it’s so important to listen to students and learn from their experiences when creating policy.

The report and framework are informed by higher education leaders, anti-poverty advocates, state policymakers, and postsecondary students convened by CLASP in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in April 2018.

Convening participants reflected on existing policies that put students—especially those too often left behind—on a successful postsecondary pathway.

CLASP’s framework emphasizes that state policies will be most effective when they:

  1. Center equity and diversity in state higher education plans;
  2. Revamp financial aid and economic security policies for today’s students;
  3. Promote pathways that recognize students’ realities;
  4. Place support services at the core, not the edge; and
  5. Build and expand two-generational policy levers.

CLASP’s state policy and action framework centers the student experience and emphasizes equity. These recommendations can help states better support low-income, working students.