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Research indicates that high academic achievers from low-income backgrounds do not bother applying to the top-rated, but very expensive, institutions of higher education. They short-change themselves due to their assumption that they would never be able to afford the tuition.
The New York Times reported on an outreach program, instituted by The College Board, that is sending packages of information on top colleges to high school seniors with SAT scores in the top 15 percent whose families are in the bottom quarter of income distribution. This package includes application fee waivers to the top schools.
The New York Times interviewed Judith Scott-Clayton, an economist at Columbia. Scott-Clayton is not involved in the outreach program, but she said that lack of applicants to top schools is a hurdle in higher education that may be easily overcome.
College admissions boards sort through those who are likely to succeed and those who are less likely to earn good grades and graduate. However, there are plenty of students who are likely to do well if they are given the chance to enroll, and if they don't apply, they will never enroll.
The economic return on investment for a college degree has risen sharply in the past couple of decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is much higher among those without a college degree than those who have earned a college degree.
As a society, perhaps we should invest in the great minds of the next generation regardless of the income level of their families. A good education is not only good for the individual student, but increases what he or she will be able to give back.
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