[Excerpt] In this report, we focus on the pathway to higher education, scanning existing research for evidence of any barriers that block families and their children from achieving their educational goals. We are interested here in what barriers still exist and how they vary by factors like income and family background.
Essentially, we want to gauge the extent to which a child’s merit—his or her academic ability, separate from family income, wealth, or background—is truly a determining factor in helping him or her get into, and graduate from, a good school in order to tap into the advantages that a college education provides in today’s economy.
Why does this matter? Because a clear pathway to a college education is a clear pathway into the middle class. We don’t intend to imply that post-high school education or training is a cure-all to any economic problem one may face. In the current recession, for example, we’ve seen the unemployment rates of college grads double—folks of all skill levels have faced tough times. But we do know that absent some degree of postsecondary education, thriving in today’s competitive, global economy becomes much more difficult.