Thursday, June 21, 2018

Getting more rural students into better colleges and universities

The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran this story recently about Georgia universities efforts to recruit and retain more rural students.  Here's an excerpt:
Many of the nation’s most prominent colleges and universities recognize, particularly after the 2016 presidential election, that they don’t have enough rural students, and their viewpoints aren’t adequately represented on their campuses. Leaders at several Georgia universities with the toughest admissions standards are trying to improve their numbers. 
Among the recruitment strategies discussed: 
Georgia Tech started a program last year that offers a guaranteed spot to any high school student who graduates first or second in their class. UGA in January announced the ALL Georgia Program, a five-year, $300,000 privately-funded initiative to offer additional academic and other support to rural students. Emory offers scholarships to rural students to attend Oxford College, its smaller, two-year college whose students finish at the main campus, and is expanding outreach efforts.
I note the Georgia Tech plan is reminiscent of Texas's 10% plan, which guarantees admission at the University of Texas's flagship campus in Austin to any student graduating in the top 10% of his/her class.  Journalist Eric Stirgus also links the recruitment of rural students to the health of Georgia's rural economies:
Their success could be critical for Georgia’s overall economy. The state of small-town and rural Georgia was a big concern for many state lawmakers during the recent legislative session. Several rural hospitals have closed in recent years, and access to high-speed internet has often been lacking. Lawmakers pumped more than $40 million into new or expanded programs aimed specifically at helping the economy of small-town Georgia. 
Rick Clark, director of Georgia Tech's undergraduate admissions, cites data showing that "rural students are more likely to return to their communities upon graduation." 

The rate of college enrollment of rural students lags slightly behind the rate of enrollment of students from suburban and urban districts. 

The availability of higher education for rural students has been a frequent topic on this blog (here, here, and here), as well as in my scholarship.  (Read more here).   Recent national media coverage of the shortage of rural students in our colleges and universities is here and here.

The Washington Post ran this story last fall on how "top public universities are shutting out poor students," which are not necessarily synonymous with rural students, though clearly there is some overlap.  Such "top public universities" in Georgia would include the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.  The WaPo story, by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, names the University of Alabama as a culprit illustrative of the trend, a school that increasingly awards "merit" scholarships in lieu of needs-based scholarships.  In the good news column, the WaPo story observes that Georgia State University, which it characterizes as a "selective public institution," "boosted its share of low-income students by 7.5 percentage points, to almost one-third, while decreasing the number of wealthy students by 8.5 percentage points to about one-fourth of the student body."

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