College is expensive for all students. However, for low-income students, it is often simply impossible to even consider. What a shame! Many students from poor families are academically strong and very talented. Why should they be denied an education because they can't afford it?
There is, however, something that can be done, and many colleges are doing it in order to allow more low-income students achieve their goal of a college education.
Developing a race-conscious admissions program
In a recent landmark decision, the Supreme Court upheld a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin that had been challenged; the program remained in place by a 4-to-3 vote. The program was controversial because it considered race as a factor. The victory sent a strong message to other colleges that they need to remove obstacles that prevent low-income students from being admitted to college.
In a recent Huffington Post article, Executive Director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Harold O. Levy said, "It’s long past time for colleges to remove these obstacles and create equal educational opportunity for all, so that students are judged by the strength of their academic abilities rather than the wealth of the families."
He also added the following recommendations to make this a reality:
- Better educate students about the costs - students need to understand the true cost of college. Just because the tuition is less doesn't mean it's going to cost them less. With scholarships and financial aid, the cost can actually be lower at private colleges. Most students do not know this!
- Establish more programs for low-income students - only 3 percent of students at America’s top colleges and universities come from low-income families.
- Simplify the application process - far more low-income students are the first in their family to attend college, so they need help with application processes.
- Set aside more money for low-income students - money set aside for so-called “merit aid” not based on financial need should be shifted to go to students who require financial aid to attend college. They should not be denied if they are equally strong candidates just because of lack of finances.
- Look beyond the obvious - low-income students often lack the extracurricular requirements for admission to college because they have to work. Colleges need to look at the big picture and look at other strengths, such as students who are bright, ambitious and hard workers.
Levy's Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded about $147 million in scholarships to more than 2,000 students and $90 million in grants to organizations that serve low-income students since 2001. For more information on how to apply for their scholarships, visit www.jkcf.org/scholarship-programs/