Monday, December 11, 2017

Elite colleges change ways, court rural students

Elite universities and colleges say they have tried for years to bring in more students from rural areas, but their own policies have created obstacles for poor, white students. A study of eight selective colleges in 2009 found that poor, white applicants are much less likely to be admitted to elite colleges, even less so if they had been leaders in 4-H or Future Farmers of America. Rural kids who have high GPAs and SAT scores tend to go to state schools or community colleges, if they go to college at all.

Amid increasing skepticism about the cost and worth of college, especially among Trump voters, some such schools have redoubled their efforts. One is Swarthmore College, a private institution just south of Philadelphia which this year "created a recruiting program targeting rural students called Small Town Swarthmore, which helps fund candidates’ visits to the campus," Douglas Belkin reports for The Wall Street Journal.

Public colleges are acting, too. Georgia Tech, the University of North Carolina at Chapel HillColumbia University and Carleton College have all stepped up efforts in recent years to attract more rural students, Belkin reports. "In January, the North Carolina university system approved a plan to increase enrollment of rural students by 11 percent by 2021. Princeton University has expanded its ROTC class and this year is reinstating a transfer program that includes community colleges—both of which disproportionately help students from rural backgrounds." 

It's a problem that needed addressing. "The education gap between rural and urban residents has been growing for decades," Belkin notes. "Though college attendance has risen for both groups, the rural rise has been smaller, and the gap has more than doubled—from seven points in 1980 to 16 points by 2015. Meanwhile, multiple studies have shown admissions biases against rural students with financial needs."

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