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Low income, high test scores?
Watch for Yale in the mail

Yale is stepping up its recruiting among low-income high achievers, in the face of new research showing how few of those students even apply to selective colleges.

"Think you can't afford it? Think again," proclaims the header on a postcard that the Office of Undergraduate Admissions recently mailed to 16,000 rising high school seniors with high test scores and low family incomes. A big fat zero represents the dollar contribution expected from families with annual incomes of $65,000 or less. A line below that explains that for all Yale students who receive financial aid—roughly 55 percent—the average out-of-pocket cost is just $15,857 per year.

"For most students and families in the United States, Yale is more affordable than a public university,” undergraduate admissions dean Jeremiah Quinlan ’03 says in a press release. “It’s critical that these talented students understand that their high aspirations are feasible."

But they don't understand, as a Brookings Institution study made clear this spring. Of high-achieving students in the bottom quarter of the nation's income distribution, only 34 percent go to selective colleges—less than half the 78 percent rate for students from the highest-income quartile.

Outside of major metropolitan areas, those poorer students usually don't apply to the top schools, instead sticking with their local community colleges.

In a follow-up paper last month, the Brookings researchers "mailed information packets about colleges mostly to high-performing, lower-income students," reports David Leonhardt ’94 in his New York Times Economix blog. "The packets included information on financial aid, admissions standards and graduation rates. Students who received the information were substantially more likely to attend top colleges—colleges with more resources and higher graduation rates—than students who did not receive them."

Yale says it will send the same students a second mailing later this summer, with instructions for applying to Yale and obtaining a fee waiver.

Filed under financial aid, Yale College
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