Access: An Overview


Higher education has created stumbling blocks for entrance. One must navigate a complex system of tests, essays, grades, and activities. The premise is that colleges admit students who did well in high school because they will probably continue to do well at college, but there are at least two problems with the traditional application system: it perpetuates socioeconomic inequities; and it is a fallible method for uncovering student potential.

In our nation, education is a Civil Right. Sixty years after the Brown vs. Board decision, however, thousands of children are deprived of this right, especially at the post-secondary level. A Brookings Institution study by Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery shows that, in 2008, nationally, there were 35,000 low-income high school seniors with grades in the top 10th percentile. Of these, 80 percent did NOT even apply to one selective college. Why? Their schools lack information, encouragement, and intervention strategies to empower them to apply to a four-year college, and the colleges did not effectively reach out to them. Further, a study by Stanford Professor Sean Reardon found a 125-point difference on each 800-point SAT test between the children of the top 10th and bottom 10th percentiles of family income. What good are test scores if they actually reflect parental wealth, rather than a student’s true talents and abilities? In 2015, there must be better ways to assess and encourage all students to achieve a baccalaureate degree. This conference will link the discussions about diversity, civil rights, democracy, and admissions.

September 3, 2015

SAT Scores Drop and Racial Gaps Remain Large.
By Scott Jaschik

September 3, 2015

Why Are Colleges Really Going Test-Optional?
By Cory Turner

August 19, 2015

Defining College Affordability
By Doug Lederman

March 28, 2013

Expanding College Opportunities for
High-Achieving, Low Income Students (PDF)
By Caroline Hoxby and Sarah Turner


The Widening Income Achievement Gap
By Sean F. Reardon

August 2005

The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement (PDF)
By Gordon Dahl and Lance Lochner

December 2011

Gains and Gaps: Changing Inequality in U.S. College Entry and Completion (PDF)
By Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski

July 21, 2015

Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape
Lorelle L. Espinosa, Matthew N. Gaertner, and Gary Orfield

Spring 2013

The Missing “One-Offs”: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students (PDF)
Hoxby, C., & Avery, C. (nod).
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 1-65.

April 27, 2013

No Rich Child Left Behind
By Sean F. Reardon

January 6, 2015

Standardized Tests Are Weakening Our Democracy
By Richard D. Kahlenberg

November 24, 2014

Make Admissions at Elite Colleges ‘Access Aware’
By Raynard S. Kington