Study shows low-income, high-acheiving students face hurdles

Fees, tuition hikes, lack of information may discourage students from applying to top colleges

In a study released Monday, Education School Prof. Sarah Turner and Stanford University’s Caroline Hoxby, an economic professor, found that the college application process inhibits high-achieving, low-income students from going to top universities. Although the students are qualified to attend selective institutions, they are often uninformed about the application process and do not know which schools to apply to.

The Expanding College Opportunities project focused on a group of 39,682 low-income students and allowed them to apply to 200 colleges for free. These students were in the bottom 35 percent of the distribution for family income and had college assessment scores in the top 10 percent. Most students were not from “feeder high schools” — schools in which students are streamed into a certain college or university system.

Students in the study received charts with graduation rates and application information for certain schools before applying. With this information in hand, participants submitted 48 percent more applications than usual to colleges than students not part of a study. The colleges they applied to also had a combined average graduation rate 17 percent higher than the schools to which non-participants applied.

Study participants had an average admittance rate 31 percent higher than students not in the study, and were admitted to colleges with graduation rates 24 percent higher than students not in the study.

At the University, the number of low-income students applying has increased by 30 percent since 2007, Dean of Admissions Greg Roberts said. To encourage increased socioeconomic diversity, the University must provide robust financial aid programs, he added.

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