Giving Compass’ Take:
• Open Philanthropy Project shows how one randomized control trial that sent application fee waivers and other info on elite colleges increased the chances that high-achieving, low-income students would apply and enroll.
• There’s an opportunity here for impact-oriented funders, whether it’s scaling up the results from this trial or financing the retrieval of more data to give us a fuller picture.
High-achieving, low-income high school students typically do not apply to or attend selective colleges at the same rates as other high-achieving students, even though selective colleges may be cheaper than non-selective colleges for such low-income students (due to financial aid resources and scholarships). Because attending a selective college may substantially increase future earning potential — though we have not thoroughly investigated the evidence on this question — low-cost interventions which increase the likelihood of high-achieving, low-income students attending such colleges could feasibly have a very large return on investment and may increase social mobility.
A randomized controlled trial found that sending application fee waivers and information about selective colleges to high-achieving, low-income students increased their likelihood of applying to and enrolling in selective colleges. A funder may be able to extend the intervention to other students or support further research on the topic.
There are several ways a funder could get involved in this area:
- Attempt to scale up the intervention described above to all high-achieving, low-income students (though major scale-up is already under way; see below)
- Fund further research. The researchers discuss their desire to undertake similar research projects for other target demographics (e.g., low-income mid-achieving students and mid-income high-achieving students, students at different stages in their education).
- A funder could also potentially provide resources to continue to follow the treatment group over a longer period of time, to determine the magnitude of the benefits they receive from attending more selective colleges.
- Lobby the federal government to share more extensive data with researchers in an appropriate fashion. The researchers note that interventions like ECO are only possible with ample data from the federal government and that such data is currently hard to access
Read full article about interventions for low-income college students at Open Philanthropy Project.
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