A few hours after publishing an op-ed piece by an erstwhile high-achieving, low-income kid, the NY Times followed up with an opinion piece by its Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt reporting on a study that shows, “Basic information can substantially increase the number of low-income students who apply to, attend and graduate from top colleges.” The study was a randomized experiment that involved sending useful information to high-achieving, low-income kids:
- “The packages arrived by mail in October of the students’ senior year of high school. They consisted of brightly colored accordion folders containing about 75 sheets of paper. The sheets were filed with information about colleges: their admissions standards, graduation rates and financial aid policies.”
And the result was:
- “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.”
And the conclusion was:
- “The experiment is part of a new wave of attention on the lack of socioeconomic diversity at top colleges…. Another recent study, by Ms. Hoxby and Christopher Avery of Harvard, found that many low-income students had the high school grades and scores to thrive at the nation’s 238 most selective colleges, but never applied. And the Supreme Court may soon further restrict race-based affirmative action, putting pressure on colleges to try a class-based version instead…. Together, these developments are creating a test of whether colleges mean what they say about meritocracy and diversity…. University officials have long trumpeted economic diversity as a goal. A few colleges, including Harvard and especially Amherst, have in fact significantly increased their ranks of low-income students. But at most top colleges, the student body — while geographically, ethnically and religiously diverse — remains dominated by affluent students…. The new research shows that large numbers of talented, well-prepared low-income teenagers exist. And many of them want to attend selective colleges, once they understand their options.”
Socioeconomic diversity – that’s something worth working for.