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President Jill Tiefenthaler's Blog

Study finds that many talented, low-income students do not apply to top colleges

A recent article by economists Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery shows that a majority of low-income high school students who have the grades and test scores to gain acceptance to top colleges, don’t even apply. Instead, they attend local community colleges and regional universities. This is a problem because they are less likely to graduate from less selective institutions. 89% of top students at selective colleges had graduated or were on pace to do so, compared with only 50% of top low-income students at nonselective colleges.

Why don’t these students apply to top public and private universities? They are more likely to stay close to home, don’t know about financial aid available to attend elite institutions, and have less information about the differences between colleges. Supporting the importance of the latter two explanations, Hoxby and Avery find that high-performing, low-income students who attend high schools in large metropolitan areas are more likely to apply to top colleges than students who attend high schools in smaller urban or rural areas.

At CC, we are building relationships with community-based organizations to help more low-income, top students find us. For example, we recently joined QuestBridge, a program that helps low-income students make it to 35 of the nation’s top colleges. You can read more about the Hoxby and Avery study (and find a link to the full report) in the New York Times story “Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor.”

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