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The vast majority of low-income, high-achieving students in the U.S. do not even apply to any selective colleges, in spite of the fact that attending those institutions would cost less than the ones the students do attend thanks to generous financial aid packages, according to a new paper presented today at the Spring 2013 Conference on the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA). The research has implications for how selective universities conduct recruitment and ultimately whether they simply focus on having a student body that is racially diverse or one that is more broadly income diverse. In “The Missing ‘One-Offs’: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students,” (PDF) Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard find that there are indeed low-income students with SAT and ACT scores and grades that place them in the 10 percent of all students – between 25,000-35,000 of them. They find that there are missed opportunities in both directions: few if any of these students consider selective colleges, and selective colleges in turn miss them because tend to focus their outreach efforts in major cities whereas many of these low-income, high-achieving students live in non-major urban areas.


Hoxby, Caroline M., and Christopher Avery. "Low-Income High-Achieving Students Miss Out on Attending Selective Colleges." Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Spring 2013.