According to NPR, what\’s quietly hampering the efforts of elite colleges to diversify their student bodies is always that they’re can not attract high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds. Throughout the admissions season, Ivy League schools like Cornell, Harvard and Yale expend an inordinate amount of effort to locate high-performing applicants who come from poor families, yet no matter how attractive the financial aid package they provide, the numbers remain flat year to year.
The terms provided to low-income students are extremely attractive. In addition to grants covering the cost of tuition, many schools toss in free room and board too. NPR reports that for all those selected, the cost of attending one of the best schools in the country could be less than enrolling in a close public university — yet this doesn’t appear to have made a dent in their numbers.
Caroline Hoxby, who studies the socioeconomic makeup of student bodies in elite schools, points out to a recent effort by Harvard to offer what was essentially free tuition to students whose family income was below $40,000. The end result? An increase of only 15 students out of more than 1,600 freshmen signing up for Harvard that year.
Hoxby says some college administers had confided to her that they reluctantly arrived at the conclusion that the pool of low-income students with top academic credentials only agreed to be limited, there wasn’t much they could do to change that. But in an?analysis?published with Christopher Avery in December, Hoxby indicates that this conclusion isn’t true. There is in fact an enormous pool of highly talented, low-income students; they simply aren’t ending up in top schools.
Hoxby offered one possible reason C students these colleges desperately seek are just not applying. Admission counselors get in touch with promising students once their applications are submitted, however the true problem is getting more of these to apply to begin with. This is not a problem in high schools that have been traditionally seen as feeders to elite schools. A high-achiever from Stuyvesant in Ny and Thomas Jefferson from Washington can access excellent academics and C even more importantly C experienced and dedicated college admissions counselors who push them to reach for the sky.
Hoxby and Avery found that top students who don\’t live in these major metropolitan areas were significantly less likely to end up at a highly selective school. These students were much less likely to finish up in a pipeline that ended in an Ivy League school.
“Make a student who\’s the only student who is a likely candidate for any place like Harvard or Stanford or University of Chicago – and he’s not just the only student in their high school, but he’s the only student that that high school has graduated like this in, say, 3 or 4 years,” Hoxby says.