There’s are a large amount of high achieving, highly intelligent American students who are simply missed by the country’s best schools, despite the fact that many would like to have them.
A new paper presented at the Spring 2013 Conference on the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity from Stanford’s Caroline M. Hoxby and Harvard’s Christopher Avery leads of with a stark statement: “The vast majority of very high-achieving students who are low-income do not apply to any selective college or university.”
Selective colleges often actually cost less out of pocket due to financial aid than the sorts of “resource poor, two-year and non-selective 4 year institutions” that these sorts of students most often apply to. And when these students do apply, they are admitted and graduate at high rates.
One stat perfectly sums up the problem. There are about 2.5 high income high achievers for every 1 low income high achiever. But “for every high-achieving, low-income student who applies, there are 15 high-achieving, high-income students applying to selective colleges,” Hoxby and Avery write.
When bright students attend less selective schools with poor resources, and pay more to do so, that’s a huge loss. An estimated 25,000-35,000 students in the top 10 per cent of all American students in terms of achievement, frequently get missed.
Some high-achievement, low-income students do apply to selective schools, but they’re disproportionately concentrated in large urban areas, attend magnet or other schools where colleges recruit, and live near selective schools that search for hidden high achievers.
The majority are “income typical students,” and rarely apply to selective schools. There are a few major reasons for that.
- They come from districts too small to have a selective public high school.
- They aren’t around other high achievers.
- They’re less likely to encounter teachers or older schoolmates who attend selective schools.
A few charts from the study and the Brookings Institution show how big of a problem this is. Because high-achieving students are so concentrated, there’s very little outreach to the isolated students who get the least information and encouragement:
The strategy advised by high school guidance counselors is to apply to a few reach schools, a few “match” schools, and a few safety schools. Most high income students do this. Most low income students don’t. The majority of applications go to non-selective schools. Brookings charts and annotates the distribution:
The difference in cost is truly striking. In particular, the out-of-pocket cost for for-profit, two-year programs far outstrips what students pay for top tier colleges, despite the poor job placement records of many such programs.
The most selective schools invest far more: approximately $27,001 in each student’s instruction, versus $5,119 for a non-competitive four-year school, and $3,257 for a for-profit, two-year school.
Here’s the Brookings Institution’s chart of the breakdown
BrookingsWhen students have the ability to go to, and succeed at, top tier institutions, they should get the chance. Schools, businesses, and the country are letting too much talent go to waste.
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