The majority of high-achieving, low-income students never even apply to America's top colleges—despite financial aid that could make it affordable, according to a new study. The analysis, by two education researchers, found that just 34% of successful but low-income students went to one of America's 238 best colleges; among the wealthiest quartile of elite students, 78% attended. The reasons: Low-income students in small cities and rural areas feel no connection to the top colleges, and don't know about financial aid.
"A lot of low-income and middle-income students have the inclination to stay local," a high school guidance counselor tells the New York Times. "They didn’t have any other examples, any models—who’s ever heard of Bowdoin College?" Worse, low-income students at small local colleges tend to drop out, while those who get to top colleges usually thrive—and benefit by getting a good job after graduation. The study also shows that private and elite colleges have largely punted on their stated desire to recruit poorer students. (Read more low-income families stories.)