On Recruiting Underprivileged Students

I recently quoted Kevin Carey, writing in 2010 for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He concluded Real College-Acceptance Rates are Higher Than You Think with this:

And of course it’s always worth noting that the vast majority of college students don’t go to a selective college at all and they’re the ones we should be worrying about.

Click for larger view. Via the New York Times.

David Leonhardt’s Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Pure, from the front page of the March 17th New York Times, provided current data supporting Carey’s assertion that most low-income students with high test scores don’t even apply to the selective schools.

The colleges that most low-income students attend have fewer resources and lower graduation rates than selective colleges, and many students who attend a local college do not graduate. Those who do graduate can miss out on the career opportunities that top colleges offer.

The new study is beginning to receive attention among scholars and college officials because it is more comprehensive than other research on college choices. The study suggests that the problems, and the opportunities, for low-income students are larger than previously thought.

. . .

If they make it to top colleges, high-achieving, low-income students tend to thrive there, the paper found. Based on the most recent data, 89 percent of such students at selective colleges had graduated or were on pace to do so, compared with only 50 percent of top low-income students at nonselective colleges.

It’s difficult for the colleges to recruit the high-achieving, under-privileged student, many of whom would be first-generation college students.

Matthew Yglesias has written a couple of Slate Moneybox columns about this recently. First, from Smart, Poor Kids Are Applying to the Wrong Colleges:

High-income, high-achieving students generally do what you’d expect. Most of their applications are to schools where the median admissions test score is similar to what they got. But they apply to some reach schools and most to a safety school. Generally they apply to the local flagship state university campus, which is sometimes a match and sometimes a reach depending on the state.

Low-income students are very different. Fully 53 percent of them apply to zero schools whose median SAT or ACT scores are similar to their own. Many of these smart, poor kids apply only to a single unselective school. Only a very small percentage of these kids—8 percent of them, the authors estimate—act the same as high-achievement kids from prosperous families by applying to selective schools, including some reaches and safeties.

Then, from How Smart Poor Kids Get Screwed by the College Admissions Process:

The problem really does seem to quite literally be that most low-income kids and their families are not well-informed about the situation. They don’t know personally what kind of SAT or ACT scores are good enough to go to a selective college, they don’t know which selective colleges are appropriate for someone with their test scores to apply to, they don’t know the strategic logic of “safety schools” and “reaches”, they don’t know about need-blind admissions policies, and they don’t have any social acquaintances who can inform this. Isn’t this what school guidance counselors are supposed to be for? Indeed it is! But they’re seemingly not doing a very good job, nor are the recruiting arms of selective schools.

When selective colleges are fielding many more applications than they can ever accept, and when many colleges need to ensure they have a number of full-freight applicants, and when a number of colleges have had to abandon need-blind admissions, how much time or effort can or will they truly put into recruiting the high-achieving, low-income students?

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One response to “On Recruiting Underprivileged Students

  1. Pingback: How to send poor kids to top colleges? 2 Suggestions | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

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