Problem and Solution

A college degree changes everything. 

College is the most powerful engine for economic mobility. A college graduate is 2.2 times more likely to be employed, and will earn 1.8 times more income, than a high school graduate.1 Yet today only 12% of students from low-income families graduate college.2 Even then, they are more likely than their higher income peers to accrue substantial student loan debt that severely limits their economic futures.

The Problem

College costs have more than doubled in the past 30 years, without matching increases in mean income,3 and Pell grants only cover up to 30% of the cost of a 4-year public college education.4 Only 12% of low-income students will earn a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 24—compared to 58% of high-income students.5


To cover costs, students take out loans—an average total of $37k—that significantly limit their economic potential.6 More than 40% of college students don’t make it to graduation,7 leaving many degreeless and in debt. Borrowers who don’t graduate are 3 times more likely to default than those who do graduate.8


The financial aid process is extremely complex. From 100 questions on the FAFSA, to an onerous verification process, every obstacle is another opportunity for students to lose the financial aid for which they are eligible. It’s no surprise that $2.3 billion in available federal financial aid is left unused each year.9


Students have few places to turn for help. Those who are first in their family to attend college can’t rely on parental experience. School counselors often lack the training and capacity to provide the affordability planning and financial aid coaching students need. Nationally, the student-to-school counselor ratio is over 490:1.10 

Our Solution

uAspire has a three-pronged approach toward solving the problem and ensuring that every student has an equitable opportunity to succeed. With a singular focus on affordability, our innovative models have large-scale impact.

In person and over text, we support students one-on-one to maximize financial aid, minimize loan debt, and make informed financial decisions about the best postsecondary option for them. Students are empowered with the knowledge and skills to face future obstacles and access the financial aid that enables them to complete their degree with limited debt.


School counselors and college access providers play a pivotal role in helping students achieve a higher education, but they often lack the knowledge and skills to guide students through the complex financial aid systems. Through online and in-person professional development, we share our expertise so they can effectively support their students every step of the way. 


To level the playing field for young people from all economic backgrounds, our policy team works to improve financial aid systems so everyone has a chance to graduate with a degree they can afford. We ensure that the student perspective is at the center of conversations on college affordability and the systems that greatly impact their lives and families.

Learn more about our work.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2015; Published April 5, 2016.

2The Pell Institute. (2017) "Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States."

3College Board. Tables and Figures: Tuition and Fees and Room and Board Over Time.

4Reich, David. "House Budget Committee Plan Cuts Pell Grants Deeply, Reducing Access to Higher Education." Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. October 21, 2015.

5The Pell Institute. (2017) "Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States." 

6Mitchell, Josh. “Student Debt Is About to Set Another Record, But the Picture Isn’t All Bad.” The Wall Street Journal. May 2, 2016. 

7U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2015) "The Condition of Education 2015."

8Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) analysis

9Helhoski, Anna. "How Students Missed Out on $2.3 Billion in Free College Aid." October 9, 2017

10American School Counselor Association. (2014) "Student-to-School-Counselor Ratio 2013-2014."