Friday, October 04, 2019

CSHPE faculty present ways to increase college access for disadvantaged students


Many higher education institutions aim to increase access, especially as equity gaps have remained pervasive. Michael Bastedo and Susan Dynarski, both of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, spoke on this topic at a conference held by the Education Writers Association on the U-M campus.

Dynarksi spoke about the Go Blue Guarantee campaign, in which high-achieving, low-income students were notified about offers of four years of free tuition. She said that students who received “nudges,” or personalized, targeted mailers and alerts were more than twice as likely to apply (67%) and be admitted (32%) than students who didn't receive them.

“It didn't cost a dollar in grants,” said Dynarski, who worked on the program. “It didn't change the students' eligibility for grants. It changed the way information was communicated to them.”

Michael Bastedo suggested that college access can be improved for applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds when their applications are considered in the context of the opportunities they have received in their communities and schools. Admissions officers tend to have varying information about an applicant’s context, and knowledge among officers can be inconsistent.

Bastedo showed that officers who were given standardized data about applicants’ high schools—and their performance relative to their peers—were 26% more likely to recommend admission for low-income students. His research has contributed to a project called Landscape that standardizes this type of information for admissions professionals, because, he explained, “They're looking for some very consistent data that they need to help contextualize the achievements of the person (who) is in front of them.”

The College Board’s Landscape tool has provided standardized data about applicants’ neighborhoods and high schools to about 150 pilot colleges this year; some have already reported that it helped them admit more underrepresented students.

Michael N. Bastedo is Director, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education; Professor

Susan Dynarski is Professor, School of Education; Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; Professor, Department of Economics, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

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