The Columns

Price: Reaching Out to Low-Income Families Before The Application Process

— by on June 8th, 2015

by Hayley Price

The question of how to increase economic diversity in schools circles the minds of numerous politicians, educators and admissions officers today. Low-income students stand behind high-income students when it comes to the types of schools they attend. People apply to college in hopes of social mobility and advantages in their future, but these outcomes tend to benefit the wealthy more than those less well off. Trends show that low-income students apply to less selective colleges, actually attend a college less often, and if they attend less graduate than higher-income families. Politicians should focus efforts and money on creating services to change these issues. If low-income students had the information and assistance, they would apply and attend schools that fit their academic and economic needs. In my opinions these low-income students need the information ahead of time and before they begin the application process.

Many low-income families are falling through the cracks when it comes to information about college. Often students have parents that did not attend college and may attend schools with poor or no college counselors. With such little guidance these disadvantaged students often find themselves lost and alone when it comes time to apply for college. With extensive financial aid packets, SATs, essays, and thousands of colleges it is no wonder the numbers show less low-income students applying to college. If these students simply were taught the availability of aid to assist them when paying for all these processes of application, the number of low-income applicants would rise drastically. Not only that, but if students had information packets and counselors to walk them step-by-step through each process that must be done to apply to schools more of these students would apply to college.

If the students decide to apply to college they often go to the less selective colleges. Students at under matched schools may be less prepared after completion because their schooling did not challenge them and therefore did not prepare them for the job market. If better college counselors were placed in low-income schools students could receive better information about colleges that would prepare them for the future job market as well as meet their financial needs. The daunting sticker price of colleges deters numerous students from applying to prestigious institution, but many of those big name schools are the ones that have large financial aid packets and may prepare them more for finding a fulfilling career. Some students also just do not know what a liberal arts college is for example. Some students lack basic information about schools and therefore do not even attempt to apply to what they do not know. Schools need to target low-income families and send information packets on the extent of financial aid and the future that may lie ahead after attending a more selective school. If these students simply had the information about college they would be much more likely to apply to selective colleges.

The final issue facing low-income students revolves around graduation rates. Statistics show low-income students are less likely to graduate than their wealthier peers. This may be for a variety reasons including: not enough money to complete school, boredom if the school is not challenging enough, dropping out to get a job, or not fitting in. Many of these problems would not occur if the students simply had proper education about different institutions ahead of time. Information packets about financial aid, difficulty, basic school atmosphere and activities on campus could help these students pick a college more tailored to their needs. Once again, college counselors with better knowledge about financial aid could help these students pick a school they could afford to attend for four years. Finally, if students saw trends about how attending college, and specifically a college that fits their academic needs, would help their career path in the long run, students would see the benefit of going to school and staying to finish the degree.

Statistics prove that families in bottom quintiles need college degrees more than those in the higher quintiles. Children at the top are much more likely to stay at the top, but lower groups need the college degree to have a shot at social mobility. Low-income families are in a vicious cycle of needing the degree more, but either not having the means to pay for school, not attending school or the right school, or not graduating and often leaving with more debt. These issues need to be addressed to allow social mobility in our country, and I believe the first step is to tackle students in high school who have yet to apply and supply them with the information and faculty to allow them to reach these goals.

Hayley Price, of the Class of 2018, is from Atlanta, Ga.