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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bridging the Income Barrier at Top Colleges

The Hamilton Project, a Washington group affiliated with the Brookings Institution, has released a report calling for the expansion of a recent experiment aimed at persuading highly qualified low-income students to apply to top colleges.
Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges in a recent year, according to research conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard. Among top students in the highest income quartile, the figure was 78 percent.

The experiment intended to change the situation, conducted by Ms. Hoxby and Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia, mailed information packets about colleges mostly to high-performing, lower-income students. The packets included information on financial aid, admissions standards and graduation rates. Students who received the information were substantially more likely to attend top colleges — colleges with more resources and higher graduation rates — than students who did not receive them.
The Hamilton Project argues for an outside group, like the College Board, to help expand the experiment. It also suggested varying it – sending the information earlier than the senior year of high school, for instance – and allowing researchers to study its effectiveness.
In making its case, the group presented a series of charts on inequality and education in the United States. One notes that the cognitive ability of very young children does not differ much across income groups, suggesting there is a large pool of untapped academic talent among poorer children:

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