Giving Compass' Take:
- This article by Liz Willen of The Hechinger Report examines the problems high school seniors are having with closing the financial aid gap and putting college within reach.
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Every April, Match High School principal Hannah Larkin and the staff celebrate a few major college admission victories in the senior class. Much to their dismay, they also become bearers of bad news.
Those hard-fought scholarships and financial aid awards that follow tough prep courses and months of painstaking forms and applications? Many won’t go far enough to make attending a four-year college away from home possible for these largely low-income minority students, dashing their dreams of dormitory life on leafy campuses.
These are among the financial realities that encourage even the brightest low-income students to choose colleges and universities with fewer resources and lower success rates, while their wealthier counterparts are more likely to end up at institutions with higher graduation rates, well-connected alumni and an array of perks. In addition, aid from the government, merit aid from universities and private programs increasingly provide more benefit for wealthier students with high grade-point averages and top scores on entrance exams.
The outlook is better for students at Match, which pairs students with individual tutors from the moment they enroll, pushes a demanding curriculum filled with advanced placement courses and has sent 89.1 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges since 2004, the school says. Attending college becomes part of the conversation as early as kindergarten.
Nationally, just 23 percent of high-achieving, low-income students even apply to top-tier, selective colleges. Instead, almost half of the students from the lowest-income families go to community colleges. So do a majority of Hispanic students and 44 percent of black students.
Next year’s senior class will be watching closely. So will Principal Larkin, along with college counselors Joanna Sanborn and Zar-Kessler, who already worry that both federal and state budget cuts will make next year even more challenging.