A new coalition of 80 colleges including 8 Ivy Leagues has formed with the idea of making college more accessible to underprivileged and low income students. The group has named itself the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.
Selective colleges today are dominated by students from affluent families. There are many reasons for this. First is cost. Pell grants which are given to low income students are used at colleges overall at a rate of 38% but are used at a much lower rate for selective colleges, as low as 12% at some of the most selective colleges. Fewer students with financial need are attending the more rigorous and expensive private schools. Second, high schools in low income areas do not have the tax monies to offer AP courses and other competitive curriculum needed by applicants to selective schools. Third, higher SAT/ACT scores, also needed for admission to the most competitive colleges, correlate with higher incomes. Finally, students who can afford college application consultants and who attend more affluent high schools where there are good guidance resources have more college admission help to navigate the application process.
To overcome such income inequality the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success has developed a website for potential applicants to use as they begin high school. The website has information about financial aid and application requirements. It also facilitates easy communication between applicants and colleges to show interest and ask questions. A locker on the site allows students to upload essays, projects, and other forms to demonstrate their best academic achievements. Finally, there is a new application form that offers an alternative to the Common Application. This new form is accepted by the colleges in the Coalition and at 600 more colleges.
The hope is that ninth and tenth graders will start early to learn about college application and financial aid as well as take an interest in and become attentive to their academic progress.
Although this website cannot solve all the problems that exist for low income students’ earning admission to colleges, it is going in the right direction in leveling the playing field for all college applicants.