Expanding college opportunity is an “economic imperative” argues the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project. If America is to continue to be the land of opportunity, we need to find cost-effective ways to get more high-achieving, low-income students into good colleges.
“A college degree can be a ticket out of poverty,” concludes Thirteen Economic Facts about Social Mobility and the Role of Education. “Few investments yield as high a return as a college degree, according to the policy memo. “New low-cost interventions can encourage more low-income students to attend, remain enrolled in, and increase economic diversity at even top colleges.”
Increasing financial aid is an expensive way to raise low-income students’ college enrollment.
Providing high-achieving, low-income students with personalized information about college options would cost only $6 per student but greatly increase the numbers going to selective colleges with high graduation rates, concludes Informing Students about Their College Options: A Proposal for Broadening the Expanding College Opportunities Project by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford University and Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia.
Simplifying financial aid applications and assisting low-income applicants also is cost effective. It increases college enrollment by 8 percentage points, and costs less than $100 per student or about $1,000 per each additional enrollee.
By contrast, increasing Stafford loans, which offer lower rates to lower-income borrowers, costs about $20,000 to send one additional student to college.