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Researchers Found a Cheap, Surprisingly Effective Way to Get More Low-Income Students Into College

Dec 13, 2018 by

Targeted mailers promising free tuition boosted enrollment at the University of Michigan.

Annie Ma –

The sticker price of college is increasing, but for low-income students, financial aid programs can make some of the most competitive schools the most affordable. Yet the maze of application forms and fees dissuades many high-achieving, low-income students from applying at all. Studies have found as many as 40 percent of incoming students do not attend the most competitive school they could get into, and that this “undermatching” phenomenon is driven by students’ application choices rather than schools’ admissions decisions.

A new working paper suggests that removing those barriers with a promise of financial aid can significantly increase the number of low-income students who apply to and enroll in a selective college. Researchers at the University of Michigan designed an experiment to see how a relatively low-cost intervention could affect where high-school seniors went to college. The school sent personalized mailers to high-achieving, low-income students, their parents, and their principals, telling them that if the students got into UM they’d get full tuition because they qualified for a High Achieving Involved Leader Scholarship.

Of the students who received the letters, 67 percent applied to UM—more than twice the rate of the control group, made up of similar students who only got a postcard informing them of the school’s application deadlines. The group that heard about the scholarship was also twice as likely to enroll at UM; 27 percent of them did.

Source: Researchers Found a Cheap, Surprisingly Effective Way to Get More Low-Income Students Into College – Mother Jones

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