Why top colleges miss some great students

  • Article by: Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers , Bloomberg News
  • Updated: December 19, 2012 - 12:34 PM

Some of the best students never apply to top schools or to a college at all.

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davehougDec. 19, 1212:43 PM

I seriously doubt if more low-income high-grade students applied to top-tier schools the number of free-ride scholarships would change. Top-tier schools already have as many no-cost students as they choose to subsidize.

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lawyerguyDec. 19, 12 1:48 PM

According to the authors low income students applying to "safety" schools, such as state colleges and land grant universities, sacrifice upward mobility. What elitist jerks. I agree economic diversity at Ivy league or prestige colleges is a desireable goal but to write off all students attending other schools as doomed to a second class lifestyle is arrogant sophistry. For many of these poor but gifted students any college degree will be the first one in their family and a great leap forward on the economic ladder. The authors might be surprised to discover that many civic and business leaders actually graduated from non Ivy league schools. Personally, I think this country would benefit from having fewer elected officials with degrees from Harvard or Yale (regardless of party affiliation).

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luzhishenDec. 19, 12 2:14 PM

Another reason could be that they don't know or like the people attending those schools - or their idea of who would be attending them. Why would someone with a low income want to go to a tony school where they will be treated as low-class scum by a large part of the student body, or feel that they won't have the means to have any sort of social life? In a school like Michigan, frats and sororities play a large role in campus life, and they cost a significant amount of ca$h to play in.

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callmeronDec. 19, 12 3:49 PM

This "top colleges" stuff is nonsense. Compare the curriculum of the University of Kansas with Harvard and you will find the coursework and learning plans are almost the same. What Harvard and other Ivy Leaguers have is large endowments (which are used by U.S. News and World Report as a ranking criteria even though money in the bank has no correlation to educational outcomes) and highly paid "researchers" who don't ever teach classes. The few "researchers" who do teach or have students working along side of them in labs work exclusively with graduate students--NOT undergrads. Even the University of Minnesota has highly-paid professors who teach only masters and doctoral students. They are too "elite" to teach undergrads, don't you know. So the undergrads have no exposure to the large endowments and no exposure to the high-paid elitist researchers but yet those are factors used to determine which universities are "top" and which are not. Liberal snobbery is what it is.

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william16Dec. 19, 12 5:34 PM

If a purportedly high-achieving student is unable to figure out for himself/herself that attending a high-caliber school is a wise decision, or seek out and obtain third-party information to attain such an education (such as through the library, Internet, teachers, guidance counselors, etc.), then perhaps this student is not so high-caliber after all. Both brains AND moxie are required for success in higher education. At some point in a teen's life, the hand-holding starts to end, and a sense of personal responsibility needs to take over.

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emblake000Dec. 19, 12 5:42 PM

Speaking from experience coming from a low income family, being a high achiever, and going to college--it's true. I grew up in rural MN and nearly all of my peers planned on going to local community colleges or tech schools. My parents only had high school degrees. Guidance counseling was non-existent, again pushed local colleges and tech schools. It's a pretty big hill to climb when the sum total of your own, your peers, and your parents' life experiences know nothing except local colleges at best. It was a stretch for me to attend the University of Minnesota in the "big city" as it was called by my family. They were terrified to even drive me down to the cities to campus to move in. I can honestly say I knew nothing of the big world of elite colleges and universities. It's all in the culture. If you come from a culture of low achievement, it's hard to break out of it. Now that being said, I wouldn't trade my University of Minnesota experience for anything. I have a great education, a great job, met the love of my life, and am absolutely content.

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roymercerDec. 19, 12 9:49 PM

I work with a PhD in neurosciences from Yale who is totally incensed that no one in the Midwest cares about his pedigree.

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probsolverDec. 20, 12 5:09 AM

I work with a PhD in neurosciences from Yale who is totally incensed that no one in the Midwest cares about his pedigree. ----- first job out of college. Worked at a consulting firm. Two guys from out east with mbas from Harvard joined the project team. Also had a teammates from mankato, iowa state, u of mn, duke, baylor. Harvard guys were bright but were not any more effective than others. Some said they were less effective. The school you went to gets you in the door but it stops there. It then becomes a meritocracy.

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tmrichardsonDec. 20, 12 7:16 AM

What a bizarre premise this article has! The MUCH bigger issue is that due to rising tuition and drops in state and other aid, many standard state colleges offer so much less aid to top level students--that those students routinely apply only to the more prestigious schools or private schools where their bottom line cost is MUCH cheaper! State schools, like the U of MN--are seeing the best MN students flocking to private schools as a result of this. Why go to the u of MN when your cost there is much more than going to McAlister, or Carleton, St. Olaf, etc.?

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pitythefoolsDec. 20, 12 7:22 AM

Why do the poor get a free college education, but the middle class has to take out loans? Both students start from the same place -- whatever dedication and brains they bring. They both have the same shot at a successful career after graduation to pay back loans. So why does the poor kid get college free, but the middle class kid has to pay, not only for themselves but for the poor kid as well. Cut tuition, and charge everyone the same price. The madness in college education costs and "let's male a deal"' variable pricing has to stop.

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