Applying to College

I Got Caught Reading

In an article for UCteen, high school student, Anthony Turner, discusses how he was “caught” reading by a group of students from his high school. Anthony, who is African-American, notes:

“Recently I was ‘caught’ reading at McDonald’s by a group of kids at my school. I say ‘caught’ because many of my peers consider reading to be a lame activity. They think it’s something that only geeks do.”

Anthony went on to share the encounter with one of the students:

“One girl name Tiffany walked up and said ‘Is that a…’ she rubbed her eyes and acted like she couldn’t believe what I was doing…book?’ she finished in a sarcastic, incredulous way.”

Anthony provides a critique as to why developing high levels of literacy is important and goes on to provide insight into a common cultural construct among urban youth in general and African-American youth in particular:

“Black youth culture prizes guys who play ball, bag girls, dance, and rap. Simply reading a book is considered passive or introverted. Or it’s considered a ‘white thing’—something black kids, especially black boys, shouldn’t be caught doing if they want to be popular.”

In would be enough to applaud Anthony for his brilliant critique on youth culture, however, Anthony provides insight into current research:

“I think some kids hold themselves back academically for those reasons. I know I feel slightly wary in school after hearing my peers say that people who read have no lives.

African-American and Hispanic males have the lowest high school graduation rates in the U.S. We need to step up our performance in order to compete. With the economy the way it is, the chances for black youth to succeed can look pretty slim, and if we don’t like to read, those chances get even slimmer. So, the next time you’re killing time by updating your status on Facebook or watching TV, think about reading a book instead. It helps more than you know.”

Read the entire article and view a video of Anthony…

For those youth, parents, and educators who might consider Anthony a nerd, consider the following questions:

  • How many college scholarship opportunities are there for students who play sports, watch hours of television, play hours of video games, or accumulate hundreds of hours updating their Facebook or other social media pages?
  • How many college scholarship opportunities are there for students based on the high school GPA, course taking, SAT/ACT scores, and AP exam scores?

Despite the national hype and highly publicized athletic scholarships, few students receive such scholarships and the amount of such scholarships pale in comparison to the amount of private scholarships and institutional grants (both merit- and need-based) available to students as a result of their GPA; SAT, ACT, PSAT, and AP exam scores as outlined in my book, “Show Me the Money: A Quick Guide to Scholarships, Financial Aid, and Making the Right College Choice.” However, as you ponder these questions, consider the following research from the U.S. Department of Education’s report, “The Condition of Education: 2012.”

Black students have comparable postsecondary aspirations as students from other racial groups (Figure 35-1):

  • 61 percent of White students have plans to graduate from a 4-year college
  • 59 percent of Black students have plans to graduate from a 4-year college
  • 50 percent of Hispanic students have plans to graduate from a 4-year college

However, despite such aspirations, there is a huge gap in the graduation rates for Black students from 4-year colleges and universities when compared to the graduation rates of other racial groups (Figure 45-2):

  • 62 percent of White students receive their 4-year degree in 6 years
  • 50 percent of Hispanic students receive their 4-year degree in 6 years
  • 39 percent of Black students receive their 4-year degree in 6 years

Clearly, Anthony’s focus on reading and literacy will better prepare him to achieve the aspirations that he shares with 59 percent of his peers. Perhaps, if you are a student who is being accused of being a nerd, you might share these statistics with your peers so that they might consider whether their current attitude toward education and learning is consistent with their future aspirations. Anthony’s classmates might also be interested in knowing that only 10 percent of Black males are proficient in reading by eighth grade suggesting that Anthony’s peers might view him as doing what 9 out of 10 of them should be doing. His peers might also like to know how they compare to other college-bound students who took the ACT in 2012. If the students are not interested then certainly their parents, coaches, teachers, and counselors should be!

Finally, the last table, “Probability of Competing Beyond High School” shows that those students who are developing their, “Athletic SWAG” are likely to have far fewer college/career options and opportunities than those students, like Anthony, who are developing their “Academic SWAG!”

 

 

 

Writing a Great College Essay

There are many Internet websites offering to assist students in preparing college and scholarship essays. Subsequently, there is a great deal of advice as to what college admissions officers and scholarship providers are looking for in compelling student essays. University of Pennsylvania Professor, Angela Lee Duckworth, has been engaging in research regarding the qualities of successful students, which she refers to as, “Grit.” Many colleges and universities are considering her research as a component of how they assess student essays, particularly students from lower-income backgrounds who have to overcome uncommonly difficulty obstacles. See Professor Duckworth’s comments about “Grit,” which she describes as, “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals, having stamina, sticking with your future— day in or day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.”

Professor Duckworth also comments on the attributes of high achievement in any field.

Click here for a link is to an essay of a student who expressed such grit in their college essay.

In addition to demonstrating “Grit” in your essays, in my book,Show Me the Money: Scholarships, Financial Aid, and Making the Right College Choice,” I talk about the importance of reflecting the noncognitive variables used by readers of the Gates Millennium Scholars essays:

  • Self-Concept
  • Realistic Self-Appraisal
  • Handling System/Racism
  • Long-Range Goals
  • Leadership
  • Strong Support Person
  • Community
  • Nontraditional Learning

It is important to allow yourself sufficient time to write, review, and re-write your essays many times to ensure that you tell your story in a very compelling way.

Reducing “Summer Melt”

“Summer Melt” is a term traditionally used by college admissions officers to describe the phenomenon that students pay a deposit to attend a particular college but do not matriculate at that college the following fall. In The Forgotten Summer: The impact of college counseling the summer after high school on whether students enroll in college, Harvard researchers, Benjamin Castleman an Lindsay Page, provide insight into the percentage of students who, after being accepted into college, fail to actually enroll in any college following high school graduation. Their research identified:

  • 10-20 percent melt nationally
  • 21 percent melt in Boston, MA
  • 22 percent melt in Fulton County Georgia
  • 33 percent melt in Providence, RI
  • 44 percent melt in the Southwest district in Texas

Some of the factors contributing to the failure of students to enroll into college were:

  • Difficulty interpreting award letters and tuition bills
  • Unanticipated costs (e.g., health insurance)
  • Difficulty completing paperwork
  • Lack of access to professional guidance

While the research suggests that schools can do more to support college-bound students during the summer immediately following high school graduation, it also suggests that faith-based and community organizations, fraternities, sororities, coaches, and others who are “connected” to students can play a significant role in guiding and supporting students following high school graduation through to college enrollment. The research caused me to reevaluate our role in the Turner Chapel AME Church Education Ministry. Although we have had a full range of college readiness and financial aid planning initiatives for several years, “Summer Melt” has not been one of the issues we have thought to consider. We have a large number of students who we have guided into college who return to participate in our annual college panel, however, we do not know if there are students who slipped through the cracks during the summer immediately following high school?

We can do more and we are committed to doing more.

Cornell University Diversity Weekend

We know that the opportunity to visit campus is an important factor in identifying whether Cornell would provide what you are looking for in your college experience. The Fall Engineering Diversity Hosting Weekend (DHW) is a great chance for you to come see what the College of Engineering and greater Cornell University campus have to offer!

This overnight hosting program will take place Thursday, September 26 – Saturday, September 28, 2013 and will provide you with an insider’s view into life as a Cornell Engineer. During Fall DHW you will have the opportunity to:

  • stay in a residence hall with a current student;
  • learn details about the admission process;
  • attend a class;
  • participate in an interactive lab demonstration; and
  • interact with faculty, staff, and students.

Additionally, you will be able to engage with members of several of our award-winning engineering student organizations including:

Notes about the program

  • This program is for high school seniors (graduating in Spring 2014) and has a particular focus on first generation college students and/or student from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in engineering (African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Native Pacific Islander and Native Alaskan).
  • There is no cost for the program except for your own travel to campus.  However, you may be eligible to apply for a travel grant to cover some or all of your travel expenses. Once you have been accepted into the program you, will receive instructions on how to apply for these travel grants.
  • This is an application-based, space-limited, selective program.  Though it is not equivalent to admission into Cornell University, we are looking for students that show promise of being a member of the freshman class.
  • Because we require one year each of Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, and Biology for our freshman admissions, we are also requiring these for our hosting program.  Note that these are requirements for you to fulfill before high school graduation, so taking them in Senior year still fulfills the requirement.

All supporting application materials must be submitted with the online application by Monday, July 15, 2013.  If you experience difficulty uploading your materials, please contact the Engineering Admissions office.

To apply, you must complete the Fall DHW Online Application by Monday, July 15, 2013.

 

Informing Low-Income Students About Their College Options

Many high performing students from lower income backgrounds are failing to recognize the huge advantage they have in gaining admissions into highly selective colleges and universities.

In the article, Elite Colleges Struggle To Recruit Smart, Low-Income Kids, Shankar Vedantam notes the challenges faced by top colleges and universities to identified qualified candidates from lower income backgrounds:

“If this is like most years, administrators at top schools such as Harvard and Stanford will try hard to find talented high school students from poor families in a push to increase the socioeconomic diversity on campus and to counter the growing concern that highly selective colleges cater mainly to students from privileged backgrounds.”

Although the information and support we are providing through our partnership with the Turner Chapel AME Church Education Ministry is being replicated by organizations in other parts of the country, there are still far too many students lacking access to the necessary support. For example, In the Houston Public Radio article, Ivy League 101: Helping More High Achieving, Low-Income Students Apply to Best Colleges, Laura Isensee notes how the Houston Independent School District’s Emerge program is expanding college access for students from lower income families by working with over 300 students from 12 Houston high schools:

“We have students at Harvard, Tufts, Dartmouth,
Oberlin, and MIT.”

The research paper by Caroline Hoxby (Stanford University) and Sarah Turner (University of Virginia) of The Hamilton Project, Informing Students about Their College Options: A Proposal for Broadening the Expanding College Opportunities Project, provides insight into the need for closing the widely research “College Knowledge Gap.

“Most high-achieving, low-income students do not even
apply to selective colleges despite being highly qualified
for admission and success at these institutions. Because they
do not apply, these students forgo the generous academic
resources, increased financial aid, and better collegiate
and career opportunities that selective schools offer.”

Professors Hoxby and Turner discuss the “Expanding College Opportunities (ECO) Project” and cite four important elements their research addresses, which has been validated in a variety of research studies pertaining to:

  1. Undermatching
  2. The College Knowledge Gap
  3. Graduation rates for high achieving, low-income students attending selective colleges and universities is substantially higher than the graduation rates of such students attending colleges where they are “undermatched”
  4. Such students receive greater amounts of scholarships and grants, and lower amounts of student loan debt when attending selective colleges and universities

However, their research also addresses an important fifth element that is missing in many other research studies—the impact on low-income communities:

“High-achieving, low-income students are the natural role models for their
communities. High-achieving, low-income students are potentially the greatest
future college ambassadors to low-income students. Their authentic
experience of a life transformed can make them powerful advocates
and policy leaders who understand the issues that plague low-income
students who are striving to obtain a world-class education.”

In our work with students, this little researched aspect of expanding college admissions and scholarship opportunities, represents perhaps THE most significant element. Expanding the opportunities of students from low-income backgrounds, low-performing schools, and from families where students are the first in the family to attend college has a profound impact on family and community constructs regarding postsecondary pathways.

Organizations such the Gates Millennium Scholars, Posse Foundation Scholars, and Simon Scholars are having profound impact on students, families, schools, and communities each year. For example, not only do the students who are selected as one of the 1,000 Gates Millennium Scholars each year provide hope for their communities, students who are not selected are enriched through the process and end up applying to highly selective colleges and universities. The same is the case for both students who are selected as Posse Foundation Scholars and those who apply, but are not selected. Here in Atlanta, Gates Millennium Scholars who attend the Atlanta University Center work with Atlanta Public Schools students each year in preparing their GMS applications. Their efforts have significant as Atlanta Public Schools students lead the state in the number of students selected as GMS recipients. Through these and other volunteer efforts they are having a profound influence on the community as they continue expanding their own leadership capacity.

Although students certainly should be aware of the following four programs, there are many more local, state, regional, and national programs counselors and organizations should identify:

We are also working with students as 11th and 12th grade cohorts in college application packaging, scholarship research, essay writing, résumé writing, interviewing, and college research. Through this process we have gained perspective into what Professors Hoxby and Turner propose in their study. We believe that the ECO Mailing Packet they propose expanding in their paper can certainly be helpful for students. However, that is not enough as we believe that the information must be supported by the type of grassroots organizations that have been working with such students for many years and who have been experiencing measurable success in widening the postsecondary pathway for such students.

The formation of our 11th and 12th grade cohorts is in response to our experiences in which high performing students continued to make poor college choices and to miss out on important scholarship opportunities, despite being presented with all of the necessary information. Providing the information is an important element, however, connecting students to people willing to guide them through the process is critically important.

Their paper goes on to reinforce other research indicating some of the challenges confronting high achieving students from low-income backgrounds:

  • Students are poorly informed about the application strategies typically used by students who generate a strong portfolio of admission offers.
  • Students are poorly informed about what college will actually cost.
  • Students are poorly informed about the differences between colleges.
  • Students are not aware that they are eligible for testing and application fee waivers.

Responding to these challenges will require “Information” and “Guidance Through the Process.” Additionally, it will require interventions during elementary and middle school if we are to substantially increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who among raise to the ranks of high achieving students who are qualified for admissions to selective colleges and universities.

Students from low-income families may have many college options available to them if they can navigate the oftentimes difficult, time consuming, and tedious college admissions process to selective colleges and universities. However, if students are willing to commit the time to researching colleges and to preparing quality college admission packages, there could be tens of thousands of dollars in financial aid awaiting.

The Washington Post article, “Getting more poor kids into college won’t fix income equality” points out some of the benefits of President Obama’s push for colleges to expand the admissions pathway for students from low-income backgrounds (Obama proposes college-rating system in bid to increase affordability) through increased accountability in such areas as average tuition, percentage of low-income students enrolled, and the amount of student loan debt accumulated by students. More information about colleges would be available on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard website.

In an attempt to expand the college pathway for low-income students, the University of Chicago is simplifying the application process, eliminating the expectation that students work during the school year, providing summer internship opportunities, expanding their career counseling support, and no longer require submission of the CSS/Financial Aid Profile.

The U.S. News and World Reports listing of “Economic Diversity Among the Top 25 Ranked Schools” provides insight into those colleges that may have the most supportive policies and programs for students from low-income backgrounds.

Click here for the U.S. News & World Reports listing of the 100 most selective colleges and universities in the United States.

 

 

Simon Scholars Program

 

Simon Scholars Program

The Simon Scholars Program, funded by the Simon Family Foundation is currently operating in California, New Mexico, Georgia, and Washington D.C. It is a 6-year scholarship program that begins during a student’s junior year in high school and continues throughout the student’s 4 years of college. The program requires students to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA by the end of their junior year of high school. Students are provided with a cash stipend, a computer, social skills training, academic support, leadership training and community service activities. Students also receive college-preparatory assistance through ACT and SAT courses, college tours and assistance in the application process from college coaches. Upon graduating from high school and being accepted into college, students receive a $16,000 college scholarship ($4,000 per year).

While the Simon Scholars Program provides a much smaller scholarship amount than the Gates Millennium Scholars and Posse Foundation Scholars Programs, the Simon Scholars Program works with students over the course of their final two years of high school providing much needed assistance in helping students to qualify for a broad range of college scholarships and expands students’ college admissions options to highly selective colleges and universities with generous need-based financial aid policies. Increasing students college readiness and expanding students’ sources of financial aid provides further evidence of the research findings pertaining to students’ college success and campus involvement:

  • 86 percent of Simon Scholars who have started college are still enrolled or have graduated
  • 97 percent of Collegiate Simon Scholars are actively involved in campus life
  • 65 percent of Collegiate Simon Scholars are involved in community service on campus

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of Simon Scholars, both recent high school graduates and students currently attending college. Among the group of high school graduates were 3 Gates Millennium Scholars and many of the current college students were attending highly selective colleges and universities.

Click herefor information about current high schools participating in the program.

How Much “Guidance” Can You Expect From Your “Guidance Counselor?”

In the research study by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, “2012 National Survey of School Counselors: True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness” middle school and high school guidance counselors acknowledged that they simply do not have time, or in many cases, the training to for provide students with the necessary college or career guidance.

The National Office for School Counselor Advocacy(NOSCA) identifies eight components deemed to be critical to ensuring college and career readiness for students in grades K – 12:

  1. College Aspirations
  2. Academic Planning for College and Career Readiness
  3. Enrichment and Extracurricular Engagement
  4. College and Career Exploration and Selection Processes
  5. College and Career Assessments
  6. College Affordability Planning
  7. College and Career Admission Processes
  8. Transition from High School Graduation to College Enrollment

To support the implementation of these 8 components:

  • Elementary school counselors should be creating early awareness and assisting students in developing the knowledge and skills that lay the foundation for the academic rigor and social development necessary for college and career readiness.
  • Middle school counselors should be creating opportunities to explore and deepen college and career knowledge and assisting students in developing the skills necessary for academic planning and goal setting.
  • High school counselors should be creating access to college career pathways that promote full implementation of each student’s personal goals that ensures the widest range of future life options.

Most counselors support these 8 components and although 9 out of 10 counselors believe that all students should have access to a high-quality education, only 56 percent of counselors see this as a reality in their schools (49 percent in high poverty schools).

In response to these eight components, high school and middle school counselors surveyed indicated that only:

  • 50 percent of counselors have the training and knowledge to implement schoolwide strategies
  • 48 percent of counselors know how to create solutions that remove barriers
  • 47 percent know how to keep students’ parents and families involved
  • 31 percent of counselors collaborate with outside organizations and businesses to support their strategies

Less than half of all counselors believe they have sufficient training to assist students with:

  • academic planning,
  • college aspirations,
  • college and career admission processes,
  • connect college and career aspirations and the selection processes,
  • enrichment and extracurricular activity engagement, or
  • college affordability planning

The reality in most schools is that guidance counselors are responsible for too many students, lack adequate resources, were not adequately trained in college and career planning during graduate school, and lack access to high quality staff development in their current school districts.

The undeniable truth is that students and parents are unlikely to receive sufficient guidance from guidance counselors to develop an effective middle-through-school college admissions and financial aid plan. Students and their families must accept responsibility for developing their plans and for putting forth the necessary effort to implement their plans if students are to expand their college and financial aid options.

Colleges That Do Not Require SAT or ACT Scores

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing identified over 800 colleges and universities that deemphasize the use of standardized tests in their admissions decisions for applicants who graduated from U.S. high schools. Some of the schools totally exempt students from having to provide SAT or ACT scores, while others use the tests for placement purposes.

The admissions policies vary by institution with some schools waiving SAT/ACT scores for students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class, based on the student’s high school GPA, or have a “Text Flexible” policy. Review the schools on the list and contact the admissions office to learn about their particular admissions policy.

Some of the top ranked major universities and liberal arts colleges on the list include:

  • Wake Forest University
  • NYU
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • University of Arizona
  • DePaul University
  • George Mason University
  • University of Mississippi
  • Middlebury College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Smith College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Bard College
  • Agnes Scott College

This should be welcomed news for students who have performed well in school, engaged in leadership and community service activities, and yet, have not performed well on standardized tests. Do your research and identify the colleges and admissions policies that are best for you.

Academic “Undermatch” and What it Means to You

Academic Undermatch

With only 57 percent of students attending 4-year colleges and universities receiving their bachelor’s degree in six years, it is important for students to choose the right college. But what is the “Right College?” Is it one where students attain their degree? Is it one where students have access to the necessary financial aid to reduce student loan debt? Is it one where students are engaged academically, nurtured socially, and are connected to the institution? Is it one where students develop a marketable skill set that will enable them to pursue jobs and careers? Is it one where students develop a network of social and professional contacts within the institution and that extend into the professional workplace? Is it one that is located close to home? Is it one that effectively prepares student for graduate school? Ideally, the right college would provide an affirmative answer to such questions based on their importance to the students who are applying to college. However, finding the right college match will also have to account for each student’s interest, gifts, talents, academic abilities, personality, best/worst learning situations, needed support, and career aspirations.

The term “academic undermatch” refers to when a student’s academic credentials permit them access to a college or university that is more selective than the postsecondary alternative they actually choose (Smith, Pender, Howell, Hurwitz). Academic undermatch may occur with as many as 41 percent of all students and may be significantly higher for students from lower income families, students who live in rural areas, and students from families where the student is the first in the family to attend college. Such students are less likely to have access to effective college planning or even engage in significant conversations about the types of colleges accessible to them. Without engaging in such conversations and lacking any formal curricular or co-curricular activities to engage them in college research and financial aid planning, they are not only likely to undermatch, they have no context for increasing the chances of making a good college match or even enrolling into college at all.

The research brief, “Maximizing the College Choice Process to Increase Fit & Match for Underserved Students” provides a working definition of “Fit” and “Match.”

Fit:a broad assessment of the extent to which an institution meets a student’s social, academic and financial needs. Considerations of fit may be based on a variety of factors, including location, academic programs and majors, class sizes, graduation and employment rate and support services offered.

Match:one aspect of fit—it refers to the relationship between institutional selectivity and students’ academic ability, and is usually assessed by ACT and/or SAT scores. Students often use “match” to assess their chances of being admitted to a particular institution and to determine where they will apply (Roderick et al. 2009). Those who choose to attend an institution with academic indicators (e.g., test scores) below their own are said to “undermatch” (Bowen et al. 2009).

The brief goes on to note:

“Attending a college that is a good fit and match is the optimal outcome of the college choice process—the steps students take to: 1) explore different types of institutions, majors, and financial aid options, 2) complete the admissions and financial aid processes, and 3) determine which institution to attend. The college choice process provides a framework for understanding the journey students take to arrive at their enrollment decisions. Several key factors influence the process, including parental education, socioeconomic status, students’ perceptions of college cost and financial aid, academic preparation, career aspirations, and the availability of information about college (Cabrera and La Nasa 2000).”

Although research shows that college completion rates rise with institutional selectivity, students should raise the question, “Do students from my cultural and socioeconomic background graduate at higher rates?” The following table shows the U.S. News and World Reports top ten ranked major colleges and universities(all of which are private institutions). The second table shows the U.S. News and World Reports top ten ranked liberal arts colleges(all of which are private institutions). The third table shows the graduation rates of students at ten of the largest public universities. Each table shows the 6-year graduation rates of white students and that of African-American and Hispanic students. Graduation rate data is taken from the U.S. Department of Education College Navigator.

Top Ten Ranked Major Universities

College

6-year Grad Rates
White

6-year Grad Rates
Black

6-year Grad Rates
Hispanic

1. Harvard

98%

94%

95%

1. Princeton

96%

94%

91%

3. Yale

97%

95%

94%

4. Columbia

92%

91%

92%

4. U. of Chicago

92%

80%

86%

6. MIT

94%

83%

88%

6. Stanford

96%

93%

95%

8. Duke

95%

90%

94%

8. Penn

96%

96%

95%

10. Caltech

85%

100%

80%

Top Ten Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges

College

6-year Grad Rates
White

6-year Grad Rates
Black

6-year Grad Rates
Hispanic

1. Williams

96%

94%

92%

2. Amherst

98%

95%

92%

3. Swarthmore

94%

100%

96%

4. Middlebury

93%

69%

90%

4. Pomona

97%

90%

91%

6. Bowdoin

94%

89%

84%

6. Wellesley

91%

97%

87%

8. Carleton

93%

75%

91%

9. Haverford

93%

84%

85%

10. Claremont                McKenna

92%

100%

85%

Graduation Rates for State Universities

College

6-year Grad Rates
White

6-year Grad Rates
Black

6-year Grad Rates
Hispanic

University of Arizona

63%

50%

58%

University of California Los Angeles

90%

76%

85%

University of Florida

85%

77%

83%

University of Georgia

83%

79%

70%

University of North Carolina

92%

81%83%

University of Texas

84%66%72%

University of South Carolina

71%

65%

69%

University of Virginia

95%85%99%

University of Washington

81%

68%71%
University of Wisconsin84%62%

73%

While degree completion rates do not tell the full story, it is undeniable that the degree completion rates are higher for all students who attend selective colleges and universities, particularly for students of color and those from lower income families. Perhaps answers to the following questions may provide guidance as to why degree completion rates at such institutions are so significantly higher:

  • What type of financial aid policies are offered by the institutions?
  • What type of academic support is offered by the institution and among students themselves?
  • How large are the classes and what type of learning experience occurs within typical classrooms?
  • What is campus culture like?
  • How large is the student population and what are the socio-cultural norms embedded within the school community?
  • What type of financial aid support do students need and what is the level of support provided from the office of financial aid?
  • What is the academic calendar and what is the accessibility of student enrollment into the course work required for degree completion?

Although students of color and students from lower income backgrounds are more likely to attend a state university or public college within their state, research findings also reveal a number of reasons beyond location as to why such students choose to attend public in-state institutions and who are significantly less likely to identify the necessary “fit” and identify the right “match” in their college choices:

  • Low-income students are less likely to plan for college early
  • Underrepresented students have less access to comprehensive information
  • Underrepresented students underestimate their eligibility for financial aid and overestimate college costs
  • Underrepresented students often lack tangible parental support in the college choice process
  • Underrepresented students are sometimes discouraged from attending certain types of institutions based on counselor’s and teachers cultural misperceptions
  • Underrepresented students limit college choices to a smaller geographical range than wealthier students

The answers to such questions, as well as consideration of the research findings, can further explain the differences in degree completion rates between institutions. However, the question may be raised, “How does all of this relate to the issue of academic undermatch?” The answer is twofold:

  1. Students of color and students from lower income backgrounds who meet the admissions requirements and enroll into highly selective private colleges and universities have significantly higher rates of degree completion.
  2. Since African-American and Hispanic students disproportionately live in poverty and come from households where their parents are unlikely to be college graduates, even if they meet the criteria for admissions into highly selective colleges and universities, they are less likely to apply for admissions to such colleges (Smith, Pender, Howell, Hurwitz).

Although the tables provided here only compare graduation rates between 3 racial groups, students from all racial groups who come from lower income families or who live in rural communities are at risk of under matching in their college choices. It is important for all students to seek out their school counselor and local college planning support programs to assist in their college and financial aid planning efforts if they are to find the right college “fit” and “match.”

References

Maximizing the College Choice Process to Increase Fit & Match for Underserved Students. (2011). Research to Practice Brief. College Pathways Network.

Smith, J., Pender, M., Howell, H., Hurwitz, M. (2012). A Review of the Causes and Consequences of Students’ Postsecondary Choices. Advocacy & Policy Center. The College Board. <http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/LiteratureBrief_Undermatch.pdf>

Smith, J., Pender, M., Howell, H., Hurwitz, M. (2012). The CollegeKeys Compact: Getting Into College: Postsecondary Academic Undermatch. Advocacy & Policy Center. The College Board. <http://advocacy.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/12b_6264_CollegeKeys_Brief_revise_WEB_120719.pdf>

Smith, J., Pender, M., Howell, H. (2012). The Full Extent of Student-College Academic Undermatch. Advocacy & Policy Center. The College Board. <http://www.aefpweb.org/sites/default/files/webform/Extent%20of%20Undermatch.pdf>

The high costs of not doing your research

 

Claire Suggs from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute shares important information for Georgia students:

State and federal lawmakers are changing higher education financial aid programs and that makes it harder for Georgia’s students to earn a college degree. These changes aren’t just hurting students and their families. They’re undermining Georgia’s economy, which is increasingly dependent on having an educated workforce.

The Legislature imposed new budget cuts on higher education in the last session. To compensate the university system announced tuition hikes for the upcoming school year. These hikes are now an annual ritual and their cumulative impact is large. Students entering the system this fall will pay on average 55 percent more than those who entered in 2008. For those starting at the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech, the increase is even greater: 65 percent at UGA and 70 percent at Tech.

While tuition soared, the HOPE Scholarship shrunk. In 2011 the legislature made significant changes to it. Now the scholarship covers only a portion of tuition instead of the full cost. For the current school year, the HOPE Scholarship covers about 83 percent of full-time tuition for students in the university system. It’s expected to cover a steadily declining portion of tuition in years to come.

There are signs that students in the university system are having a harder time covering college costs. The proportion of students with loans in Georgia is growing. Fifty-eight percent of Georgia graduates had student loans in 2011, three percentage points higher than 2010 graduates. At the same time student debt is growing. 2011 graduates owed on average $22,443 in student loans, almost 19 percent higher than the $18,888 owed by 2010 graduates.

The financial pressures these students face are about to intensify. On July 1 the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans is set to rise from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. In response the Obama Administration and the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed plans to tie the student loan interest rate to the interest rate of a 10-year U.S. Treasury note plus several percentage points. Under both plans the interest rate would rise, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of the loans.

Raising costs and reducing financial aid doesn’t help Georgia’s students. It will prevent many from completing a postsecondary program, making the state’s workforce less competitive. Those who manage to finish will increasingly do so at the cost of significant student loan debt, which limits their ability to buy a house or a car as well as save for retirement—all a drag on Georgia’s economic growth.

Each year, many Georgia students enter the Georgia University system without engaging in any meaningful college planning or financial aid research outside of the state of Georgia. Each year, students enter the Georgia University system armed with little more than the HOPE scholarship, and are shocked by how easily they can lose the HOPE scholarship and how large the unmet financial need they still have. Subsequently, as evidenced the amount of student loan debt Georgia’s college students are incurring, it would be wise for students to further explore their financial aid options and more carefully consider their choice of colleges.

No matter where students live, it is important for them to carefully research colleges and universities in and beyond their home state and pursue their education at those institutions (whether in state or out of state) where they have the best chance to receive their degree and acquire the necessary financial aid (without loans) to meet the cost of attendance.