The Bold New Plan to Make Top Schools Accessible to Low-Income Students

can’t afford college
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We’re always taught to “shoot for the moon” or “reach for the stars.” Basically, to go for the best that’s out there, even if the goal seems unattainable.

However, when you’re a prospective college student whose family isn’t rolling in dough, you may not see the value in enrolling in the nation’s most selective — and expensive — universities.

A recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that about 86,000 Pell Grant recipients met or exceeded the standardized test requirements to attend selective colleges — yet don’t attend them.

The majority of Pell Grant families earn less than $30,000, according to the report. Perhaps the sticker shock of $44,990 per year tuition at Harvard or $51,400 per year at Yale is enough to turn them away. But it shouldn’t be.

The Georgetown report states that 69 of the most selective schools have average annual budget surpluses of about $139 million each — but students with Pell Grants make up less than 20% of enrollment.

The report calls for elite institutions to admit more students from low-income families so that Pell Grant recipients make up at least 20% of enrolled students.

CNN Money reports that those colleges would have to dole out more in financial aid for low-income students to attend, but using their surplus budgets could make that achievable.

“I think it’s an easy ask,” Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, told CNN Money. “These are not-for-profit institutions and, by law, they have to serve a public purpose.”

Some schools have banded together on a mission to make higher education more accessible to low-income students. That coalition, known as the American Talent Initiative, currently consists of the presidents of 68 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, NYU, Princeton, UCLA and more.

According to ATI: “Highly talented lower-income students are much less likely to graduate with a college degree than their higher-income peers. When qualified high-achieving, lower-income students attend top colleges and universities, their probability of graduating increases significantly, as do potential life earnings and long-term opportunities.

ATI’s goal is to recruit, enroll and graduate an additional 50,000 low-income students by 2025 from colleges and universities that consistently graduate at least 70% of their students within six years.

ATI plans to achieve this with “robust outreach” to recruit students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and by prioritizing need-based financial aid.

So, hopefully, low income will no longer be a barrier for high-achieving students seeking high-quality education.

Your Turn: What do you think about the American Talent Initiative’s mission?

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She is a proud graduate of Hampton University.

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