Constructing Affordability: How Institutional and Relational Contexts Affect Retention of Undergraduates from Low-Income Families

Many students from low-income families leave college before completing a degree, sometimes attributing their departure to college “unaffordability.” What does this mean to them? With college costs continuing to rise, and the income gap between students who finish college and those who do not increasing, answering the question of college affordability is more important than ever.

With funding from the William T. Grant Foundation, Sara Goldrick-Rab and Nancy Kendall are investigating how conceptions of affordability evolve for students from low-income families as they experience college, and what influences their decisions about staying in school.

The researchers will track 60 Pell Grant recipients as they move through their first year of college and beyond. The students in the study are drawn from four public campuses in the UW System. The study will measure the students’ perceptions of college affordability and factors that might promote their chances of success in school. Such measures could be used to create targeted interventions to improve financial aid awareness for students and their families and outreach practices by the institutions.


William T. Grant Foundation


Completed on September 30, 2016

Contact Information

Sara Goldrick-Rab