College Diversity Opportunities

I conducted this interview with Veronica Longstreth, who has some excellent ideas on how to get additional scholarship money for underrepresented students.

I apologize for the poor quality of this video! The information within the video, however, is definitely worth checking out.

Unfortunately, colleges and universities have been pouring more and more money into merit aid for affluent students (like those in Princeton) and giving less to low-income teens.

Stephen Burd of the New America Foundation wrote three important studies in 2013, 2014 and 2016. He is a highly respected higher-ed journalist who used to write for The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Here are the three studies:

Strategies to help low-income, minority and first-generation students

Here are some ideas, in no particular order, on how to help these students:

1. These families absolutely need to file the FAFSA and if applicable, the PROFILE.

2. Read this course’s guide – FAFSA and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE Resources – that contains sources to help them with these aid documents.

3. Another resource is NerdWallet’s FAFSA Guide that includes information on who should file in undocumented families, as well as nontraditional households such as when an aunt or grandmother is raising a child

4. If at all possible, low-income students should be filing the FAFSA on October 1, 2017 for the 2018-2019 school year.

5. Getting the FAFSA filed promptly will increase a kid’s chance of getting a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant. Look in my lesson on Federal College Aid to learn more about this federal grant for Pell Grant eligible students. Unlike the Pell Grant, the FSEOG money can run out on individual campuses.

6. Students need to know that they can get the Pell Grant for a maximum of six years. If they can swing it, it can be better to attend school full time with help from the Pell Grant rather than taking one or two courses a semester.

7. At the very least, make sure that students don’t miss the FAFSA deadline for state aid. In some states, it’s first-come, first-served with state assistance. When the money runs out needy applicants are out of luck.

8. Look for summer college programs for first-generation and minority students. Please look at the video during which Longstreth provides valuable advice about finding summer opportunities and scholarships for these students.

9. Be leery of low-income students applying to state universities as nonresidents. Except in rare cases, state schools will not provide need-based aid to nonresidents.

The only hope that nonresidents would have of getting assistance from state universities will typically be to aim for merit scholarships. State universities routinely give these scholarships based on test scores and GPAs. If you look on the admission websites of state universities, they are often pretty explicit about what it takes to win merit scholarships at their institutions.

10. Another opportunity at state and private universities are extra scholarships that can be funded by the schools themselves, as well as by alumni and other outside groups. These can be for such things as ethnicity, specific majors, talents and geographic location of the student.

Look on a school’s website for these scholarships. Another resource is the Merit Aid Scholarships Offered by Colleges section of Cappex, a popular college admissions/scholarship site.

11. See if a student qualifies for a reduced tuition if a parent is a disabled veteran. In California, for instance, I think every veteran has been classified as disabled to some degree or another. Just being a tiny percentage disabled in California, entitles a student to free tuition at a state university.

12. Look at private schools that meet a high percentage of need. Check out The Ultimate List of the Nation’s Most Generous Colleges. Of course, these are going to be among the toughest schools to get into.

13. Look for schools that meet as high a percentage of need possible that students can get into. Two of my favorites for low-income students that don’t reject the majority of students are College of Wooster and St. Olaf College.

Look in the course module entitled, Tools to Find Generous Colleges, to learn how to research whether a school tends to provide solid financial aid packages.

14. Ask school admission reps what their admission requirements are for minority and first-generation students. A college isn’t going to advertise this, but some will hold these applicants to lower admission standards in recognition that test scores, in particular, are HIGHLY correlated with income.

15. A student should contact a school’s diversity admission rep (assuming there is one or more of them). This is especially critical if a college or university cares about applicants showing that they are truly interested in the school. This is referred to as demonstrated interest.

16. Find out what the policy of particular schools is in terms of how they handle private scholarships. Some schools will reduce the grant portion of an aid package and/or a work-study opportunity if a student wins a private scholarship.  What you want is for the school to reduce the loan portion of a package.

A student can appeal the move if a college says it will reduce the grant portion of an aid package because of an outside scholarship.

17. Connect students to local college-bound organizations, who can help guide them through the application process. Also look for national opportunities such as the Gates Millenium Scholars, The Posse Foundation and the QuestBridge program for support and pipelines for major college money. Another organization is ScholarMatch that works with bright, low-income students.

Selective schools will be more inclined to take a serious look at students if college-bound nonprofits can vouch for them.

18. Ask what the graduation rate is for Pell Grant recipients. While schools are required by law to provide the graduation rates of its Pell recipients to any applicants who ask, a loophole protects them from having to report the same figures to the government.

19. Use College Completion, a microsite of The Chronicle of Higher Education, to check four and six-year grad rates for any college. You will also see the grad rates broken down by race and ethnicity. You want to see the grad rates for minorities that are close to those of white and Asian students.

20. Students should use free or nearly free resources to study for the SAT and ACT. The Khan Academy is the official resource for the SAT. Here is the link for SAT test-prep materials.

21. Check out I’m First. It’s a website, partially funded by the Gates Foundation, that is an online community providing first-generation college students and those who advise them with inspiration, information and support.

22. Look for fly-in programs that are primarily for first-generation students. You can find some of these fly-in programs at GetMeToCollege. Here’s another fly-in resource – College Greenlight.

23. Tell parents to be extremely careful with Parent PLUS Loans. Unsophisticated borrowers are more likely to get into trouble and borrow more than they should since the federal underwriting doesn’t prevent low-income parents from borrowing way too much. You can learn more about the hazards of PLUS Loans in the lesson entitled,  Exploring Other Loan Options.

24. If students end up at community colleges, make sure they study for the math and reading/writing placement tests so they can skip all or some remedial courses. The majority of community college students must take remedial courses. If students feel that they have been unfairly put into remedial classes, they should appeal at the school.

An excellent way to study for placements tests is the Khan Academy. Here is the link to Khan Academy’s test-prep math materials.  Many community colleges use placement tests through the College Board’s Accuplacer, which provides free study resources.

25. When starting at community college, it’s critical that students have frequent contact with counselors at the school to make sure they are taking the right courses. A federal study concluded that transfer students lose an average of 13 academic credit hours and 40% get no credit at all!] Experts suggest that students will have a better chance of ultimately getting their bachelor’s degree if they know what they want to major in or at least the general field and begin taking courses in that concentration immediately.

Also encourage these students to attend college full-time. Students who don’t attend full time are less likely to ever obtain an associate’s degree, much less a bachelor’s degree.

26. There are scholarships for community colleges students transferring to four-year institutions. one of the most generous scholarship opportunities comes from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation that is focused on helping transfer students.

Transfer students should also check out, a nonprofit created by the International Honor Society of Community Colleges, which offers more than $37 million in transfer scholarships.

27. Check more than a school’s overall graduation rate. Also look at the grad rates by race and ethnicity. You can do this on College Completion, a microsite of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Some schools do a much better job than others in making sure minority students graduate. Read an Education Trust report on this subject: Rising Tide: Do College Grad Rate Gains Benefit All Students?

28. And finally, here is a list of schools that a New York Times analysis suggests offers lower prices to low-income students and has better graduation rates.

Learn More:

Last Affordable Options for College Students Are Fast Disappearing. Article from the Hechinger Report that links to a report

Fewer than One in Seven Community College Students Transfer and Get a Bachelor’s Degree – But There Is New Hope. Success in obtaining bachelor’s degrees can vary by student income and the states they live.

Why Are Low-Income Students Not Showing Up for College, Even Though They Have Been Accepted? The Hechinger Report takes a look at this question and concludes that summer melt is a huge problem for these children who need guidance in the summer before college starts.

Underserved Learners…Condition of College and Career Readiness and Best Practices for Meaningful Impact, This report by ACT Inc. discusses this at-risk group’s performance on key benchmarks.

On Being Undocumented, A report from The Chronicle of Higher Education shares stories of 18 undocumented students.

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  1. hi lynne,
    not sure if this question belongs here but my daughter has an IEP at her high school, mostly for her high anxiety. is there a way we should be looking at colleges from this perspective and is there somewhere information which colleges provide this support to prospective students. also is this going to be a disadvantage for her in terms of admissions? thank you.

    1. Hi Jana,

      The admission side of a college/university is not privy to what you would divulge to an institution’s learning disability office. You should check out the resources that a school has. I also would suggest that a college, where the classes are smaller and it’s easy to make connections with professors, would be a better place for someone with high anxiety. At a research university, for instance, it can often be sink or swim.

      Here is the link to previous posts that I wrote about learning disability services:

      I think it could also make sense for your daughter to share her disability with the admission department. On the PROFILE, for instance, there is the opportunity to share anything else a school should. It could also explain lower test scores or grades. Your daughter wouldn’t want to go to a school where sharing this disability would discourage the institution from accepting her.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy