The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 27, 2013

Looking for ways to make good colleges available to smart but poor kids

NEW YORK — Thick white envelopes are landing in the mailboxes of thousands of high school juniors nationwide this summer, with hip graphics in greens and blues and colorful photos of happy-looking people just like them.

In simple but carefully chosen language, the mailings try to persuade these students of something that research shows they don’t necessarily believe: that they can get into, and afford to go to, college. The contents include a very specific list of fairly selective colleges — customized especially for them — with vouchers they can use to apply to eight schools for free.

It’s not a marketing gimmick. It’s one of several earnest attempts by reputable backers to plug a massive leak through which many smart but poor high school graduates are cascading at the very time policymakers are trying to increase the proportion of the population with university degrees.

Using sophisticated combinations of test scores, census data about neighborhood characteristics and university admissions histories, these initiatives are zeroing in on students who are low income but high achieving, yet end up at poorly chosen colleges and universities with abysmal graduation rates — or forgo a higher education altogether. The effort hopes to steer them into institutions where their backgrounds suggest they are most likely to succeed.

Little noticed, and often concentrated in urban and rural schools with poor college-going rates and scant college counseling, “low-income students — even if they are high achieving — simply don’t apply to college,” said Mike Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers.

Many have parents who didn’t go to college, either, he said. With no experience of the complicated application process, their parents are dubious that they can get their kids into — let alone afford — a high-quality institution.

“You can overcome bad advising or a bad high school environment if you’ve been raised with the expectation that you’re going to go to college,” Reilly said. “But if you’re first generation, you don’t have that college-going expectation as part of your family fabric.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Injured snowy owl ready to be released ST. PAUL (AP) — A rare snowy owl that gained national attention when it was apparently hit by a bus in the nation's capital is scheduled to be released into the wild after a rehab stint in Minnesota. The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • Court case to test 'Buy the Farm' law NEW PRAGUE (AP) — A case set for trial next week is expected to test Minnesota's "Buy the Farm" law, which is meant to require utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms in the way if affected landowners demand it. The case pits th

    April 18, 2014

  • Judge strikes down part of state energy law MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that part of a Minnesota law designed to promote the use of renewable energy is unconstitutional because it attempts to control business that takes place outside state borders — and she barred Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • White House updating online privacy policy A new Obama administration privacy policy released Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites, and it clarifies that online comments, whether tirades or tribut

    April 18, 2014

  • Horse virus cases showing up in Upper Midwest BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — State officials in the Upper Midwest are cautioning horse owners about a virus that spreads easily among the animals and can lead to breathing problems, abortions and nervous system disorders. Three cases of equine herpesvirus

    April 18, 2014

  • Bear attacks spark debate: Kill them, or leave them alone? ORLANDO, Fla.—Dallas Smith thinks he has the answer to Central Florida’s black-bear threat, and he’s ready to lock and load it. “I think the fear of God needs to be put back into them,” said Smith, 47, who wants state authorities to lift restriction

    April 18, 2014

  • Tourism push plays up 'Only in Minnesota' ST. PAUL — (AP) — Say goodbye to "More to Explore." Minnesota tourism promoters ushered in a new slogan Thursday that focuses on "Only in Minnesota" experiences as part of their largest-ever advertising campaign. The revamped message kicks off a maj

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp ap pipeline photo Minnesota Pipe Line seeks to expand capacity MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Pipe Line Co. announced plans Thursday to nearly double the capacity of a crude oil pipeline that carries oil from Canada and North Dakota to the two refineries in the Twin Cities that produce most of Minnesota's and much

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holder asserts his commitment to fighting heroin WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been crusading for more lenient treatment for nonviolent drug offenders, making it a top priority before he is expected to leave office this year. Recently, however, he has been forced to confront

    April 17, 2014

  • Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds ATLANTA — Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her speech, but she

    April 17, 2014