Enrollment management and the low-income student

Posted by American Enterprise Institute on August 17, 2015

Low-income college students are having a moment in higher education, government, and the media. A wide range of actors are taking notice that low-income students constitute less than 5 percent of the enrollment at our most selective institutions, a percentage that, despite a great deal of effort and policy reform, has remained virtually unchanged for decades. Yet in the past two years, only 11 percent of selective colleges have increased their focus on socioeconomic diversity. Meanwhile, students at the upper-end of the income spectrum come from families whose wealth has accelerated during that time, leading to greater disparities on campus between the haves and have-nots.

Persistently low enrollment among low-income students is not due to a lack of qualified candidates. If we look at standardized test scores, for instance, there are thousands of graduates each year who earn scores that are typical of highly selective colleges. While estimates of undermatching vary widely depending on how it is measured, all of them find that a substantial number of low-income students attend colleges whose academic and admissions standards are significantly lower than others they would be eligible to attend.


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