How to get more high-achieving, poor students to attend selective colleges

by Grace

Most high-achieving students from low-income families are not attending top colleges, and top colleges are not aggressively recruiting these students.

Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.

The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so.

Racial diversity is a higher priority than socioeconomic diversity in college recruiting efforts.

Colleges currently give little or no advantage in the admissions process to low-income students, compared with more affluent students of the same race, other research has found….

The solution – inform students about their college options.

Sending basic information to low-income, high-achieving high school students increased their enrollment rate in top colleges.

Among a control group of low-income students with SAT scores good enough to attend top colleges — but who did not receive the information packets — only 30 percent gained admission to a college matching their academic qualifications. Among a similar group of students who did receive a packet, 54 percent gained admission, according to the researchers, Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Sarah E. Turner of the University of Virginia.

College counseling on the cheap, with an emphasis on affordability

Ms. Hoxby and Ms. Turner designed the 40,000 information packets they mailed — as well as follow-up material — as a low-cost, customized version of the college counseling that upper-income students take for granted. The packets explained application deadlines and student qualifications at a range of colleges. Students also received coupons to waive application fees — which had a particularly big effect. “We wanted students to find schools for themselves,” Ms. Hoxby said.

The College Board may soon begin replicating this strategy as a way to match low-income students with colleges that match their academic profile.

A little more help may be needed
Based on some reader comments in the quoted articles and on my own limited experience working with low-income students, many of them also need a mentor to help handle the many details involved in the college application process.  This is something that affluent helicopter parents typically do for their own children.

Related:  Fewer poor students at top colleges (Cost of College)


One Comment to “How to get more high-achieving, poor students to attend selective colleges”

  1. Reblogged this on the amateur academic and commented:
    A surprisingly simple and effective solution to the problem of high-achieving, low-income students being underrepresented at selective colleges: inform them about their options. Of course, it’s not quite that simple, but it’s amazing what an effect targeted information packets could have.


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