Bashing the Top 5 College Barriers Students Face

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Paying for College, Planning for College

The road to higher education for low-to-moderate income students isn’t an easy one. From socioeconomic to systemic, college barriers students face become roadblocks all along the way.

In our latest research, we exposed the struggles that make college completion unattainable to high-risk communities. We also revealed the solutions that make overcoming these barriers possible.

What we found are 5 unique impediments on the path to higher education:

  1. High Risk of Dropout: Only 11% of low-income students earn their bachelor’s degree in 6 years compared to 58% of affluent peers.
  2. Non-Traditional Students: Low-income students are more likely to be non-traditional students. They’re 24 years and older, juggling work, and family responsibilities while attending class.
  3. Systemic and Racial Bias: Opportunity gaps for students of color start early. Systemic inequality follows these students at every step of their college journey.
  4. Economic Bias: The high cost of education produces dramatically different learning opportunities for students based on their family’s income.
  5. COVID-19: The disparities already plaguing lower-income families have intensified. The pandemic threatens the educational aspirations of an entire generation of students.

While we know how challenging it is to overcome these barrier to college, it’s not impossible.

Below we share the top 5 college barriers students face and how, with your help, we’re working to overcome each one.

And don’t miss our event on Thursday, November 19th at 6 PM ET, “Barrier Bash: A Tribute to Crushing Barriers to Higher Ed.”

Barrier 1: High Risk of Dropout

Across Massachusetts, dropping out of college is a devastating reality among high-risk students.

In fact, 60% of students who drop out of school say they foot the bill. Rather than any financial support, they’re paying all expenses.

Meanwhile, those who completed their degree say they had help covering costs from their parents.

It’s also harder for low-to-moderate income students who drop out, even for a semester, to re-enroll in the future. 

That’s where Inversant comes in. We provide workshops, savings matches, and scholarships to ensure no student has to make that difficult decision.

Barrier 2: Non-Traditional

40% of undergraduate students today consider themselves non-traditional students.

They’re older than the usual 18-24-year-olds, juggling a multitude of responsibilities. These students are also at-risk with 67% failing to complete their degree.

They’re parents, working full-time and doing it all independently. They also have one more thing in common.

They face significant challenges due to the massive burden of professional and personal commitments. 

Between work, family life, and financial hardships, education tends to take a back seat. And as we know, when non-traditional students take a break from school, it’s harder for them to get back on track.

And while the number of non-traditional students is growing at twice the rate as the traditional student population, these students are not well supported by colleges and universities.

That’s where Inversant comes in. We’re a key player in ensuring at-risk students not only stay in school but earn their degrees.

Barrier 3: Systemic and Racial Bias

While students have long believed that a college degree is a key to upward mobility, racial equity gaps persist. These gaps make graduating from college harder than ever. 

Since 2000, by any way it’s measured, the gaps between minority and white students have grown significantly. 

Minority students feel a heavy burden of student debt compared to their white peers. Not only are they targeted with predatory, low-quality student loans, but saddled with a high amount of debt. 

Is it any wonder that close to 70% of Black and Hispanic students default on their loans within ten years? Worse than that, only 45% graduate with a degree. 

That’s where Inversant comes in. Over the last decade, we’ve worked to end racial disparities plaguing minorities.

When the pandemic struck, we pivoted to remote delivery to our families who were currently on a program track and put the pilot workshop host approach on hold.

Our goal is to offer access to anyone, breaking down barriers to higher education that might have previously existed.

Barrier 4: Economic Bias

As is with many first-generation and low-income students, financial aid options are hard to understand. Often, high schools don’t offer much in the way of college counseling. No talk of grants, scholarships, or work-study.

No information about loans or opportunities they might qualify for.


They might be able to go to a selective college. But they’re left thinking they have to foot the entire bill on their own so they never apply.

While higher-income students receive college guidance in school or by private contract, low-to-moderate income strike out on their own.  

So they do what seems best at the time: they enroll at a for-profit college that promises a real-world experience at a low cost.

Add to that the effect of the pandemic and many wonder how they’ll stay in school with little to no financial support. They wonder:

  • Should they drop out and get a job – any job?
  • Should they find a different school, one with better financial aid options?
  • Should they cut classes down to the bare minimum?

They need to re-evaluate but don’t know where to begin. That’s where Inversant comes in.

We walk students through their financial aid options, learning what’s available so that they can enroll in a more selective college program.

No matter the financial burden, our team is there to support them, every step of the way.

Barrier 5: COVID-19

COVID-19 laid bare the deep economic and racial inequities in our educational system and workforce.

A recent US Census Bureau survey found that:

Families with an income under $75,000 were almost TWICE as likely to cancel plans for college than students from wealthier families.

Not to mention low-income concerns of:

  • How to access online classes
  • How to pay for classes with a job loss

Many students come to Inversant looking for a scholarship that will enable them to focus more on their studies.

During our latest Scholarship, Cash for College, we heard that for most – some days are good, but others are hard. They want to make a better life for themselves and their families and don’t want to give up on their college dreams.

That’s where Inversant comes in. We’re working to rebuild the educational system, putting an end to these racial and economic inequities.

Breaking Down Barriers to Higher Education

The desire to go to college and earn a degree has become universal among high school students. But while we sit at record level highs of students immediately entering college, graduation rates haven’t kept up.

60% of the wealthiest students complete their studies and graduate. Compare that with only 16% of low-to-moderate income college students that graduate.

There’s no doubt about it, the barriers to college completion are harder to overcome than ever. Facing roadblocks at every step of the journey, students have an upward battle to make it to the finish line.

Low-to-moderate income students face roadblocks at every step of their journey. It’s an upward battle to make it to the finish line.

From family obligations to financial struggles, their path is strewn with obstacles. And while their challenges may differ, they all have one thing in common: dedication.

They’re devoted to earning a degree they know will swing open doors of opportunity. Not only that, they endure understanding the positive impact it will have on their family.

But to get there, they can’t go it alone. That’s where Inversant comes in. 

Our scholarships, workshops, and savings incentives address these barriers head-on. We help our students stay on track and earn their degrees.

We’re honored to walk this path with our students. More than that, we’re thrilled to share their empowering stories with you.

Want to support the work we’re doing? Together, we will make a difference!

Thank You to Our Generous Supporters

Headline Sponsors

Special recognition to Metro Credit Union, Kayem Foods, and Northbridge for their continued support throughout the year.

Thank you to all of our generous supporters. It’s because of you that we’re able to continue our work and impact within the greater Boston area.

Supporting Sponsors

  • Jay Ash
  • The Boston Foundation
  • Cataldo Ambulance
  • Peter Condakes Co.
  • Cummings Properties
  • East Cambridge Savings Bank
  • Eastern Salt
  • Marjorie Glazer
  • Global Oil
  • Charles Kravetz
  • Carmen Perez
  • Gustavo Posse Foundation
  • Santander Bank
  • XSS Hotels

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