When COVID-19 peaked in the Northeast, my home state of New Jersey moved into lockdown, including remote instruction for the state college and university systems. This educational shift, the virus’s disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities, and economic dislocation have had enormous impacts on the aspirations of students from low-income families who seek the transformational power of higher education.
For many families living below the poverty line in New Jersey and across the country, public universities and community colleges offer opportunity: to be the first in the family to receive a college education and to take a step up the ladder of social mobility. Today, one-fifth of college students nationally come from low-income backgrounds, and more than half are first-generation students — many of whom rely on public education institutions to transform their lives and the lives of their families. Even as economic mobility has decreased in the