Low-income achievers are ‘running in place’

High achievers from low-income families are more likely to end up in community colleges and unselective four-year universities than at elite colleges and flagship universities, according to Running in Place in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

Low-income students have improved their academic preparation for college — especially in math and science — since the 1970s, conclude Michael Bastedo, an education professor at University of Michigan, and Ozan Jaquette of the University of Arizona. However, affluent students have made even stronger achievement gains, taking more high-level math and science classes and posting higher SAT scores.

Elite colleges have adopted financial aid policies to help low-income students, but it’s not enough, the study concludes. To create socioeconomic diversity, colleges must judge applicants’ academic records and SAT scores in context.

“Sociology completely predicts this,” University of Wisconsin Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab tells Inside Higher Ed. “The powerful will always find ways to preserve power.”

Another study finds well-qualified black and Latinos are slightly more likely than similar whites to apply to selective colleges. However, the number of well-qualified blacks and Latinos is small.

Ed Week looks at programs to help low-income, first-generation students apply to college and access financial aid.  Retention is a problem.