A Case Study in Lifting College Attendance

Sydney Nye was a straight-A student with an SAT score high enough to apply to any college in the country. When her senior year of high school in Wilmington, Del., started about nine months ago, she had dreams of becoming a chemical engineer.

But she did not spend much time dreaming about where she would go to college. The notion of attending anything other than a local college seemed too far-fetched. She knew her parents — a dental assistant and a hairdresser, neither of whom had attended college — would have a hard time paying the nearly $100 application fee to elite colleges, let alone the tuition.

Fortunately, Ms. Nye lives in the state that has arguably become the most aggressive at trying to ensure that its college-ready teenagers attend college.

State officials started the program last fall by working with the College Board to mail informational packets to all 1,800 high-school seniors deemed college-ready. In the packets, low-income students received application fee waivers to eight colleges, and students with the best test scores were encouraged to apply to top colleges. High-school guidance counselors and state officials then followed up with students and their parents — through evening phone calls and in-person meetings — to make sure the thorny logistics of college applications didn’t deter them.

While it’s too early to judge the program fully, the early results are impressive. Every single one of those 1,800 college-ready high-school seniors applied to at least one college, and 98 percent are on track to enroll. <Read more.>

Via David Leonhardt, The New York Times.