Scaling Up Efforts To Reach High-Achieving, Low-Income Students

"An experiment conducted by two economists, Caroline M. Hoxby and Sarah Turner, has found that customized college information can change the enrollment patterns of high-achieving, low-income students—students who would be admissible at the most selective colleges but who tend not to apply to them," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. "One key takeaway from that work is that 'low-income students do aspire to go to the best college that will admit them and that they’re able to afford,' Ms. Hoxby said at an event here on Wednesday put on by the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project. Such students’ enrollment choices, in other words, are the result not of their preferences but of an information gap. From the beginning, Ms. Hoxby, a professor of economics at Stanford University, and Ms. Turner, a professor of economics at the University of Virginia, designed their Expanding College Opportunities, or ECO, project to be inexpensive and scalable. On Wednesday the Hamilton Project released the economists’ proposal for the next stage of the ECO project, in which they plan to work with the College Board and ACT to reach more students, and also to request access to federal data that would allow them to further customize the outreach materials. Low-income families are more responsive to information from a trusted third-party source than to information from a particular college, which can feel like a sales pitch, the researchers have found. With that in mind, Ms. Hoxby and Ms. Turner turned to the College Board and ACT. The College Board has already signed on. At Wednesday’s event, David Coleman, its president, said the organization was sending the Expanding College Opportunities materials to some 15,000 to 20,000 students this year. But as the economists note in their proposal, that total leaves out a large portion of students who take college-admissions tests. So the researchers are also in talks with ACT."

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