Low-Income Recruiting: A Call to Action
Increasing accessibility to higher education for low-income and underrepresented students is a multi-faceted issue that can’t be solved by only one facet of the system reacting.
To put it into numbers, only 3% of low-income students make up the student populace at elite schools. In broader numbers, only 65.4% of low-income students enrolled in college the fall following graduation versus 82.5% of higher-income students. While these numbers are markedly better than they were way back in 1975 where the disparity was north of 30%, the gap is still wide at more than 17%. One in three low-income students are deterred by costs, while one in four go about the college application process all on their own.
States like Minnesota and Indiana have begun experimenting with mentoring programs, while New York and Oregon have instituted free college programs. Then there are platforms like Questbridge and Posse that work from the other end, specifically with students.
Narrowing the Scope
This all feels huge, but there’s a way a bit closer to the admissions office that you can acknowledge this gap and help to close it: recruitment visits. Meagan Holland at the University of Buffalo did a study on recruitment visits, applications, and income, and her results were pretty clear-cut: intelligent low-income students are sensitive to feeling “wanted” and are more likely to apply if the prospective college lets them know they’re interested.
While there will—and should—be a carefully plotted out agenda for every trip colleges make to high schools, the focus on high-income, predominantly white high schools is one that needs to be openly spoken about.
While it can be difficult to admit that there’s a limited demographic included in recruitment visits, it needs to be stated. It’s often claimed that the high schools chosen for the college tour have the best test scores or GPAs or are on the list thanks to a strong alumni network, but there’s more to it than that.
According to Ozan Jaquette and Karina Salazar, Assistant Professor at UCLA and doctoral candidate from the University of Arizona respectively, the identifier is that they have money. Again, this is a layered topic that is also fed into by state funding being cut for higher education, but it’s rerouted colleges towards relying on out-of-state tuition, which has deepened the exclusion of low-income high schools with high-performing students from recruitment visits.
What You Can Do
While making application fee waivers less complicated and more accessible is one way to address socioeconomic barriers, adding low-income schools to college recruitment tours would have an even greater impact on these students.
Low-income recruiting can feel daunting, but it’s been proven that showing up is about 90% of the battle. If your admissions office can include lower-income schools on your recruitment tours, you’ll very likely be rewarded with an influx of applications from high-achieving low-income students that simply needed to know you wanted them.