A unifying factor in our increasingly divided country is that we all want our children to succeed. However, a growing limitation on this common objective is the need for a college degree. By 2020, two-thirds of the new jobs in our country will require college credentials. But the likelihood of your child achieving the American Dream highly depends on your household income: 77 percent of students from high income families graduate from college, while only 9 percent of students from low-income families graduate from college.

Our country’s future economic prosperity relies on breaking the cycle of poverty. And the solution is clear: a college education. But achieving this goal remains elusive for several reasons.

Higher education pioneers

The issue of college affordability has never been more prominent.

Nearly one-third of college students in this country are the first in their family to attend college. Although this is an achievement to be proud of, this uncharted endeavor can create anxiety around expectations, fit and belonging. The issue of college affordability has never been more prominent. Nearly half of the U.S. population is considered poor, and the cost of a college education continues to climb — so much so that, according to a recent analysis by the Lumina Foundation, students from low income backgrounds can only afford 1 to 5 percent of colleges, including working part-time and some financial aid.

Affordability is certainly important, but so is academic preparedness. All too often, students take on exorbitant loans to afford college and then quickly find out they are not ready for the academic rigor. In 2015, data from nearly a thousand colleges showed that 96 percent enrolled students who required remediation, totaling more than 500,000 students.

Early and continued engagement

This is why we at the College Success Foundation (CSF) engage students as early as middle school and stay with them through their college experience to graduation. Our scholars include young people from low-income families, students of color, foster youth and first-generation college students. We help students improve and remain focused on high school academic outcomes, guide them through college applications and selection, and assist them economically through scholarship supports to ensure they can successfully access and complete college. By employing these comprehensive services, CSF has supported more than 9,500 students to graduate from college.

In order to provide the best opportunities for the next generation, we MUST invest in education through a multi-faceted approach to ensure that a college degree is accessible and achievable for all.