Recruiting all types of students is important

Getting high-achieving, low-income students to top-tier schools should be a priority for all of us.

Luis Ruuska

I discussed my feelings on President Eric Kaler’s new initiative to retain low-income students after their first year at college in a column last week.

While the program, Retaining all Our Students, is a progressive step toward recognizing the income inequality problem in higher education, it’s only part of the solution.

Like many other public universities, the University of Minnesota is committed to need-blind admissions and does not actively recruit low-income students.

In a 2013 joint study, two researchers from Stanford University and the Harvard Kennedy School found that most of the nation’s highest-achieving low-income students do not apply to any selective colleges.

Students’ reasons for not applying vary, but the researchers found one common theme: Because these students didn’t know anyone who attended a selective college or had a selective college reach out to them, they didn’t believe going to one of these schools was realistic.

Furthermore, low-income students who attended a less-selective college ended up paying more because these schools offered less generous financial aid packages, resources and opportunities than selective colleges.

Low-income students may be missing out on a better education — and perhaps, a better life — because of a lack of information about their chances at a top-tier school and financial resources.

The fault with need-blind policies lies not in what they do, but in what they don’t do.

If selective colleges are not reaching out to low-income students to let them know they too have a place at the table, who will?

The task of making a top-tier, post-secondary education a goal, not a dream, for low-income students falls to the rest of us.

When only some students are able to reach their full potential, our society collectively falls short.