Thursday, March 07, 2019

One reason fewer rural high school graduates go to college: Colleges don't recruit them, but that's changing

Only 59 percent of rural high-school graduates attend college, compared to 67 percent of suburban grads and 62 percent of urban grads. One big reason: colleges don't recruit rural grads as much, Aaron Gettinger reports for The Hechinger Report, a nonpartisan education publication.

It's partly a matter of time management and limited resources. "When we think about an urban high school, a college recruiter can hit 1,500 students at a time," Andrew Koricich, an assistant professor of education at Appalachian State University, told Gettinger. "To do that in a rural area, you may have to go to 10 high schools."

It's also about money. Rural households tend to be lower-income, so more rural students need financial aid. "New research backs this up. Colleges and universities prefer to recruit at high schools in communities where the average family income is above $100,000, while forgoing visits to those where it’s $70,000 or lower, according to a study of 140 institutions conducted by researchers at UCLA and the University of Arizona," Gettinger reports. "They also concentrate disproportionately on private schools. Rural areas usually have neither wealthy families nor private schools."

However, ensuring that rural teens get college degrees could mean a more educated rural workforce and an improved rural economy. "Providing greater postsecondary opportunities for rural residents isn’t simply a matter of equity or moral obligation — it’s a matter of continued national prosperity," Koricich told Gettinger.

Colleges and universities are trying to do better, in general, some to great effect. To some extent it's because they want a wider cross-section of America represented in the student body, but also because enrollment has declined recently and they need more students, Gettinger reports. Universities are also aware of the reputation they have in rural areas as being liberal bastions, and want to counteract that with increased outreach.

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