The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette just released a story saying colleges are failing to attract low-income students.
Low-income students are defined by those who receive Pell Grants (oh hey, remember the news about cutting Pell Grants?). At Penn State University, only 15 percent of students receive Pell Grants. And an Ithacan article last week reported that 22 percent of students here receive Pell Grants.
So, who’s at fault for this economic divide? Elite and private colleges can do more to recruit lower-income students. Yes, it is impossible to know a high school student’s economic status (which is why it’s easier to recruit ALANA students). But colleges can send recruiters to areas that are known to have low-income households. Instead of going to big cities to look at private high schools, send recruiters to small towns, more public schools, small cities.
High school guidance counselors need to receive a large part of the blame. I remember being in high school, and my guidance teacher giving me brochures for community colleges because of my family’s financial situation (and that’s one of the reasons why I decided to go to a private college and face debt until I’m 50: just because I wanted to annoy this guidance counselor). But so many students from lower-income households don’t attend private colleges because they’re basically told they won’t belong.
And we need to not cut the Pell Grants, but we already knew that.