Closing the national degree divide for young people from low-income communities

Locations Served
Bay Area, Chicago, Massachusetts, Houston, Metro Atlanta, New York


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Many low income students lack the opportunity and guidance necessary to acquire the post-secondary education that is increasingly a prerequisite for good paying, career track jobs. Whether in college or vocational training schools, the bottom fifth of students based on family income are dramatically underrepresented in enrollees and even more among graduates. The median lifetime income for those with a bachelor’s degree is more than two times that of workers with high school diplomas or GEDs, and about 70% higher for someone with some college but no degree.

Yet only 22% of students from low-income communities earn a postsecondary degree, compared to 67% of their peers from high-income areas. This disparity, known as “the degree divide”, has remained largely unchanged in the past several decades at exactly the time when postsecondary credentials have become more essential for accessing economic opportunity and social mobility. As a result, hundreds of thousands of young people transition to adulthood every year without the skills, experience, and credentials needed to compete in our society.

Programs Offered

OneGoal’s three-year model, delivered from 11th grade through the first year of a postsecondary program, helps students from low-income backgrounds (nearly all of whom attended Title I schools) identify paths to success, navigate the system, improve their grades, and enroll in an postsecondary institution that aligns with their personal aspirations. The program leverages existing high school teachers with a history of producing strong student outcomes to deliver OneGoal as a daily, credit-bearing class. Supplied with OneGoal’s robust curriculum, training, and technology, these “Program Directors” commit to a cohort of 25 student “Fellows” and continue to provide individualized support for a full year after high school graduation.

OneGoal prioritizes students who have postsecondary ambitions and potential, but are often overlooked by other programs. Participating students have an average 2.7 GPA and a 840 SAT score when they begin.

96% of OneGoal Fellows identify as people of color, 91% are eligible for free/reduced lunch, and 80% are the first in their families to attend college.

Historical Results

Since 2007, OneGoal has grown from a small after school program serving 32 students in Chicago to a nationwide initiative serving over 13,500 students annually in six geographies.

  • 84% of OneGoal high school graduates enroll in a postsecondary institution.
  • 75% of those who enroll persist one year after high school graduation.

Path to Credibility

The OneGoal model is delivered at an average cost of $1,500 per student per year—significantly lower than similar programs we identified.

When we compared OneGoal’s results to the latest data on postsecondary education from the federal government, OneGoal Fellows (drawn from the bottom economic quintile) were just as likely to graduate from high school, enroll in post-secondary education, and persist into the second year as peers from the top economic quintile.

Compared to peers from similar backgrounds, a 2022 UChicago Inclusive Economy Lab Study evaluation found that OneGoal Fellows are:

      • 46% more likely to enroll in college
      • 47% more likely to to persist
      • 40% more likely to graduate

Focusing Philanthropy has conducted OneGoal field visits in Houston and New York City.

Focusing Philanthropy and OneGoal have completed a successful inaugural matching campaign.

⟶ Visit the current campaign page

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