Saturday, February 15, 2014

A nod to rural students in efforts to achieve socioeconomic diversity in higher education

Peg Tyre wrote last week in the New York Times Opinionator series of the efforts some "better colleges" are making to "improv[e] economic diversity."  The backdrop is this:
With some notable exceptions, the nation’s most selective private college and universities — institutions that tend to produce the majority of the nation’s leaders — haven’t historically worked too hard to attract and retain low-income students.
She focuses on Franklin & Marshall College in "rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania," which has an enrollment of about 2,400.  Until recently, the college wasn't very economically diverse, but that is changing.  Here are some details: 
[F]or the last three years, 17 percent of the incoming freshman class has consisted of low-income students, more than some of the most highly competitive colleges with endowments three or four times the size of Franklin & Marshall’s. The low-income students at Franklin & Marshall are doing well, too. They have roughly the same G.P.A. and retention rate as their more affluent peers. 
Franklin & Marshall’s president, Daniel Porterfield, says that rather than proving to be a risk, increasing the number of low-income students “has actually improved the long-term health of the college. We have enhanced our reputation as a national institution. We have deepened the bench of academically strong students and at the same time, we are more diverse than ever before.”
I have written in prior posts (here and here) of how low-income students are often overlooked in elite college recruitment and admissions--especially rural students, whose credentials (e.g., involvement in FFA, 4-H and ROTC) are hardly cognizable to--let alone valued by--admissions personnel in elite colleges.  So, it was interesting to see this part of Tyre's piece:
To capture poor kids from the often overlooked rural high schools, the college began placing four F & M alumni a year in the College Advising Corp, which deploys recent college graduates into high schools to help with college advising. 
The college introduced a free three-week summer program for rising high school seniors from low-income families. Coleman Kline, an F & M freshman whose father delivers pretzels and whose mother is a teacher’s aide, figured he’d attend a local college near his rural Pennsylvania home until he attended the program two summers ago. “I never considered Franklin & Marshall. But after spending some time on campus, I began to think that this school might really be an option,” he says.
Hope for rural strivers after all?  Oh that other colleges might follow Franklin & Marshall's lead.

1 comment:

Jeorge Robbert said...
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