Low-income students in Utah face a barrage of challenges on the path to college

About 20% fewer “economically disadvantaged” students finish college compared to their wealthier peers.

(Brian Albers | KUER) The student center on the campus of Salt Lake Community College.

Money might not buy happiness, but it does seem to lead to better student outcomes.

By almost every measure, students from low-income families struggle more than their peers. A new report examining the data in Utah shows wide disparities that begin as early as elementary school.

That ultimately translates to about 20% fewer “economically disadvantaged” students enrolling in and finishing college compared to their wealthier peers. It can become a vicious cycle, as lower education levels typically correlate with lower lifetime earnings.

While low-income students face many barriers, time is the commodity they’re most in need of, said Jim Taggart, president of Ogden-Weber Technical College. Speaking at a panel discussion on the report Thursday, he said less than 18% of students at his school are enrolled full-time. At Salt Lake Community College, it’s less than 10%.

“They’re coming to us and they’re saying, ‘I don’t even have six months, I need to find a higher paying job right now,’” Taggart said, even though some programs are as short as three months.

To read more, visit KUER.org.

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state.