Citi Foundation

College Success

A college degree is critical to breaking inter-generational cycles of poverty, increasing earning power and contributing to the economy. Eighty percent of today's fastest growing careers in the U.S. require a postsecondary degree1 and college degree holders can expect to earn 84% more than their counterparts with only a high school diploma.2 Unemployment rates are also lower for college graduates, which increases financial stability and security.3 The college graduation rate in the U.S. has not kept pace with that of other industrialized nations, and the United States is facing an alarming education deficit that threatens our global competitiveness.4 President Obama has framed this issue as essential to our economic future and set a goal to ensure that at least 55% of young Americans earn a degree by 2025.

Unfortunately, family income is a strong determinant of an individual's likelihood to enroll in and graduate from college. In the United States, fewer than 10% of students from low-income families graduate from college by their mid-20s. That is over 40% lower than the graduation rate of students from families in the highest income quartile. Without effective interventions to improve the college attainment rates of low-income students, they will be left further behind, perpetuating cycles of poverty and growing income inequality in an increasingly competitive job market.

Scholarship and academic preparation alone are not enough to support low-income students in this undertaking. In order to increase the number of students who successfully earn a degree, they need the support to not only get into college but also to persist, pay for and complete their degrees. To complement this holistic effort, research is needed to enable educators to identify the issues that prevent students from pursuing college and to develop interventions to address these barriers.


Our Strategy

Our strategy supports programs that help families eliminate the financial barriers to college access and completion in order to move up the economic ladder. These programs facilitate early financial planning to fund college and build college aspirations; link academic preparation to career planning; provide financial coaching to help students adopt positive financial behaviors that enable them to persist to college completion and minimize debt; and assist low-income students through the search, application and financial aid processes. Further, we seek to support research efforts that lead to viable solutions that will increase the college graduation rate in the United States.

In 2013, the Citi Foundation invested $8 million in support of programs that generate a dramatic and sustainable increase in the number of low-income, academically qualified students who enroll in and complete postsecondary education.

Learn more about how the Citi Foundation is investing in college success.


1 Hecker, Daniel E. "Occupational employment projections to 2012 (Monthly Labor Review)". Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2005.

2 James, Jonathan. "The College Wage Premium," Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. 2012.08.08. http://clevelandfed.org/research/commentary/2012/2012-10.cfm.

3 Lee, Donghoon. "Household Debt and Credit: Student Debt," Federal Reserve Bank of New York, February 23, 2013. (presentation) http://www.newyorkfed.org/newsevents/mediaadvisory/2013/Lee022813.pdf.

4 College Board, Advocacy and Public Policy Center in collaboration with the National Conference of State Legislators. "The College Completion Agenda: State Capitals Campaign 2011." Retrieved from Completionagenda.collegeboard.org.

Examples of Our Leadership

Financial Aid U
Financial Aid U
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KIPP College Accounts Program
KIPP College Accounts Program
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