A theme of several studies in the last year has been that there are plenty of academically talented low-income students who for some combination of reasons are not applying to competitive colleges to which they would probably be admitted.
A new study along those lines -- this time documenting the impact of intense college counseling -- was released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study (abstract available here) found that a nonprofit group that focuses on college counseling in Minneapolis-St. Paul had a significant impact in increasing the rate at which low-income students enrolled in four-year colleges, including competitive institutions.
The study was conducted by Christopher Avery of Harvard University -- co-author (with Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University) of a study released in December that found that most highly talented, low-income students never apply to a single competitive college. That work has set off widespread discussions about what sort of interventions might make a difference.
[UPDATE: January 9, 2014]: Check out this similar article by the New York Times, How to Help College Students Graduate. Sadly, when it comes to degree completion, where you attend college matters a great deal.
The situation is entirely different for most undergraduates, especially poor and minority students. All too often they’re steered to schools where they receive little if any support in mastering tough courses, decoding arcane requirements for a major, sorting out life problems or navigating the maze of institutional requirements. Graduation rates at these so-called dropout factories, especially those in urban areas that largely serve low-income, underprepared minority populations, are as abysmal as 5 percent.
Where a student goes makes all the difference. Consider a Chicago public high school graduate with a grade-point average of 3.5. If she enrolls at Chicago State University, a Washington Monthly investigation shows, the odds against her finishing are high — the school’s six-year graduation rate hovers at 20 percent. Her chances measurably improve if she attends the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the completion rate is 57 percent. And if she goes to Northwestern, just a few miles away, 93 percent of her classmates will graduate.