Ivies encourage low-income applicants

On a quest to raise the number of high-achieving low-income students on selective college campuses, the Yale Admissions Office has partnered with the state of Delaware to increase the amount of college preparation resources available to students living there.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan, Delaware state officials and College Board president David Coleman announced a new initiative to improve college access for Delaware high school students on Wednesday morning. The project — which will be run by the state governor’s office in conjunction with College Board, the national SAT and AP testing service — will distribute information about applying to college to every high school student in the state.

Quinlan assembled a group comprised of all eight Ivy League schools, MIT and Stanford to participate in the low-income outreach after he was approached by the Delaware governor’s office in May. The schools put together a letter signed by all 10 universities’ admissions deans that urges high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds — as identified by College Board — to apply to their schools.

“It’s a particularly significant achievement — that’s a lot of signatures to get on a letter,” Quinlan said. “We’re basically telling students that we’re interested in them for their academic promise, particularly students who do not have the same opportunities as others.”

Beyond that, the letter will also inform students of the schools’ generous financial aid policies. Since the 10 schools have a combined financial aid budget of over $1 billion, Quinlan said, students should know that these schools are within their reach financially as well as academically.

Delaware’s efforts mark the first time a statewide initiative has been launched to specifically address low-income students’ lack of access to selective universities. Though no other states have conducted formal talks with Yale yet about implementing a similar initiative, Quinlan said he would like to see the Delaware partnership between state government, College Board and higher education institutions become a model for other states in the future.

Along with the letter, College Board will also send students materials tailored to their appropriate achievement levels and interests, including information on how to research colleges and how to submit applications for fee waivers.

Harvard professor Christopher Avery, who co-authored a study released in July on high-achieving low-income students off of which the Delaware initiative is based, said in an interview with the News that the reason so few low-income students apply to selective colleges is due to a lack of information.

High school administrators nationwide offered the new Delaware program varying degrees of praise. Bryan Glonchak, assistant principal at Whitney High School in Cerritos, Calif., said that while the program is not yet in California on a similar scope,“if [the College Board] is going to start a program, they’re going have to begin it on a manageable scale.”

Tony Lee, a college counselor at Lowell High School in San Francisco, Calif., was enthusiastic about the Ivy League, Stanford and MIT taking a more proactive approach toward recruiting low-income students.

“There has been promotional stuff,” he said. “But [the materials are] directed at anybody and not particularly for low-income students. [For] most of the low-income students, [college] is something out of their reach and they don’t ever bother to go to the sessions.”

Glonchak also praised the presence of “name-brand” schools at the event, while cautioning that “the majority of those kids aren’t going to Harvard. They’re going to a lot of other schools that need to get on board too.”

But others are less optimistic about the potential results. Roland Allen, director of college counseling at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in California and a former admissions officer at Stanford and MIT, said he thinks the new effort will be “uneven” because many students still lack high-quality college counseling.

“I don’t anticipate a groundswell of opportunity through this effort,” Allen said. “However, some students who otherwise may not have considered one of these opportunities may be motivated to pursue admission. [This] is beneficial and important.”

According to the findings of a Harvard research project released Wednesday at the announcement of the initiative, high-achieving low-income students are likely to apply to colleges below their demonstrated achievement level. Additionally, 27 percent of these students in Delaware, though identified as “college ready” by the SAT, do not enroll in college at all.

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