White House Meeting On ‘Undermatching’

Career College Central summary:

  • About a dozen university presidents were summoned to the White House last week to discuss a possible new administration effort to get more low-income, academically talented students to apply to the nation’s best institutions.  
  • The leaders of top research institutions met with Gene Sperling, the chief White House economics adviser, and James Kvaal, deputy director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council.
  • “The emphasis was on how we can recruit more students of low socioeconomic status who may not ever go to college because they might not realize they have the opportunity to,” said Philip P. DiStefano, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who attended one of the meetings last week.
  • The White House officials and university presidents also discussed the problem of “undermatching” —  when high-achieving low-income students don’t apply to the competitive colleges where they would likely be accepted. The phenomenon is increasingly gaining the attention of higher education researchers and advocates.
  • A College Board study released this month found that among high school graduates eligible for somewhat selective colleges, 42 percent of lower socioeconomic status enrolled in institutions less selective than the most selective college to which they were about 90 percent likely to be admitted.
  • The White House officials this week did not propose legislation but rather focused on what universities could do voluntarily to enroll more first-generation Pell Grant recipients, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

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