The New York Times
By: The Editorial Board
April 11, 2013
Because educational opportunity has much to do with upward mobility, it is distressing that low-income students who qualify for top-tier colleges rarely end up there. Flummoxed by the admissions process and scared off by what they think will be unmanageable costs, many of these students settle for lesser colleges with lower graduation rates, less financial aid (which means more debt) and less marketable degrees.
The good news is that the problem is easy to fix and can be done at very low cost, according to a compelling new study by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford and Sarah Turner of The University of Virginia. The study focused on nearly 40,000 students from the high school classes of 2010 to 2012 who had earned grades and SAT scores that qualified them for more than 200 of the nation's most selective colleges.
About 80 percent of these students were mailed customized information packets and follow-up information explaining application deadlines, admissions criteria and costs. The packets spoke directly to anxieties about debt, showing that low-income students often pay significantly more to attend lower-tier schools than selective colleges, which have the resources to offer larger scholarships.
The students who received a packet were significantly more likely to apply to colleges matching their abilities than those who did not. They also achieved first-year grades as good as the students who went to lesser schools.
Distributing the information was remarkably inexpensive, about $6 per student. The study has impressed the College Board, which oversees SAT tests, which are taken by nearly three million students a year. The board has now committed itself to making sure that talented low-income students get the information they need to make informed choices. If it follows through, these students could see their lives and career prospects markedly improved.