There are significant disparities between high-achieving students from low-income families and high-achieving students from high-income families, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Statistics. Top high school students from poor areas are less likely to apply to America's top colleges and universities, even though they have the academic background to excel at a top tier institution.
The New York Times has more:
Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.
The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so.
College choices by top achieving low-income students seem to vary by location, with students in larger metropolitan areas more likely to apply to selective colleges than those from smaller metro areas.
The Times also explains that although elite colleges and universities want to recruit new students from diverse areas, efforts are increasingly focused on recruiting in high-income areas. Top students from poor areas often enroll in community colleges and local four-year institutions.
The article also points out that while top students from low-income families excelled in high school, their college choices often have "major consequences" on their academic success:
The colleges that most low-income students attend have fewer resources and lower graduation rates than selective colleges, and many students who attend a local college do not graduate. Those who do graduate can miss out on the career opportunities that top colleges offer.
Since the 1970s, income gaps have widened between low-income and high-income families in Pennsylvania and across the nation. One reason that top students from low-income families are not attending top colleges is they simply lack the financial opportunities available to students from higher-income families. Closing this income gap is critical if we are going to reverse this troubling trend in American higher education.