Every year on May 1, high-achieving high school seniors around the country face the final deadline for college commitment. For many middle- and upper-middle-class students, the date marks the end of standardized-test taking, application essay writing, campus visits, and financial aid planning — the complex process otherwise known as the college admissions game.This spring, the conversation about the ever-more-fraught competition for a spot in one of America’s top universities has shifted to an often-overlooked group, thanks to research by Christopher Avery, Roy E. Larsen Professor of Public Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). If admission to elite colleges is a game, Avery and his longtime colleague Caroline Hoxby found, it’s one that low-income students with high potential are too often sitting out.In a National Bureau of Economic Research paper presented in March, Avery and Hoxby, an economist at Stanford University, reported that promising but poor high school students (those who scored in the top 10 percent among SAT takers and whose families make $41,472 a year or less) often do not apply to any selective universities — despite the fact that those colleges, on average, would be more affordable than less-selective schools thanks to their robust financial aid policies.“These low-income students’ application behavior differs greatly from that of their high-income counterparts who have similar achievement,” they wrote. “The latter group generally follows the advice to apply to a few ‘par’ colleges, a few ‘reach’ colleges, and a couple of ‘safety’ schools.”In short, Avery and Hoxby wrote, low-income high performers “exhibit behavior that is typical of students of their income rather than typical of students of their achievement.”The paper spurred a wave of media coverage, much of it critical of the selective colleges Avery and Hoxby studied. If poor students weren’t applying to good schools, the logic went, then it must be the fault of those colleges for not trying hard enough to attract them. In some corners, their work was taken as a sign that the country’s higher education system was broken, or as evidence that growing wealth inequality was stifling opportunity for young people at the bottom of the economic ladder.“I can see why some people take the paper that way, but I don’t see it that way,” Avery said. “We know the colleges are trying really hard to attract these students, but they’re facing a problem that is systematically very challenging. This problem is too large for a handful of selective colleges to solve on their own.”High-achieving, low-income students often live far from major urban centers and from areas with high concentrations of colleges, such as the East Coast, he said. Colleges can still reach students through mailings, “but these students are getting piles and piles of brochures,” Avery said. “They may have heard of Harvard, but there are lots of other great colleges that they haven’t heard of, and they can’t distinguish within this pile where to apply.”Compounding the issue, he said, is the fact that many of these students are the first in their families who plan to go to college. Without any insider knowledge of selective colleges from friends or family members, low-income, geographically isolated students often don’t know what their options are, Avery said — a theme that has appeared in his research on college admission over the past two decades.Avery, who attended Harvard College and received his doctorate at Stanford, hadn’t intended to study higher education when he joined the HKS faculty in 1993.“I was trained in game theory, which is about strategic interactions and incentives,” he said. “I realized the college admissions system had evolved into a situation where there was a lot of strategy involved.”At HKS, Avery began working with a mid-career student, Andrew Fairbanks, whose interest in the economics of college admissions had been sparked by his time as an admissions officer at Wesleyan University. In 2003, with co-author Richard Zeckhauser, HKS’s Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy, Avery and Fairbanks published “The Early Admissions Game,” the first academic book to fully explore the growing practice of early admission.After studying half a million applications to 14 elite colleges, the authors found, somewhat controversially, that applying early gave students a documentable advantage over peers who applied by “regular decision” deadlines.“We were estimating that at a lot of the colleges we studied, applying early was the same as increasing your SAT score by 100 points,” Avery said. More important, he added, “was that experienced college counselors at private schools already knew this. In a sense, it wasn’t a level playing field.”Since the book’s publication in 2004, many colleges have stepped up their efforts to recruit students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds by raising awareness of their early decision and financial aid programs. Harvard, with its Financial Aid Initiative, was at the forefront of the movement, Avery said.Still, colleges and students alike have opportunities to boost the numbers, he said. Selective colleges that lack broad name recognition can tap alumni to reach out to high school students in isolated towns where admissions officers can’t afford to travel. Low-income students can request application fee waivers, allowing them to apply to several more colleges than they otherwise would and to then compare their financial aid packages.“It’s like looking at a couple of houses,” Avery said. “You may need more than one option.”Working with the Strategic Data Project at Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, Avery advises fellows who analyze data for some of the nation’s largest public school districts. Through the project, he has become more involved in tracking students of all achievement levels as they move from high school into college — or not.“I now see that there are a lot of students who could go to good colleges but who don’t go to college at all,” he said. One of the Strategic Data Project’s goals, he said, is to help school districts track former students to see how many actually pursue higher education — instead of relying on self-reported plans — and to develop interventions to help graduating students follow through on their college goals.Collaborating with researchers from across Harvard, from the Graduate School of Education (GSE) to the Economics Department, has broadened his work over the years, he said.“There’s a growing community here of people who are really dedicated to these problems,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what we as researchers can do to lower the barriers that have been keeping talented people from making it to college and graduating from college.”
Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, The Observer will sit down with Notre Dame experts to break down the election and its importance to students. In this sixth installment, News writer Rachel O’Grady asks professor of political science and director of graduate studies Matthew Hall about the consequences of the results of the Nevada caucus and the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries. Rachel O’Grady: Trump just pretty handily won Nevada, and this is his third win in a row. What does this mean for the Republican Party? Can Trump secure the nomination?Matthew Hall: I’d say it means two things for the Republican Party. First, the anger and frustration the party’s base feels toward the party elites has [been] reaching an unprecedented boiling point, and the voters are rejecting their leadership’s direction. Second, if Trump succeeds, it may mean a fundamental redefinition of the party’s stance on issues such as trade, taxes and foreign policy. Can Trump win? Of course he CAN win. Technically you or I CAN win — the votes haven’t been cast yet, and anything could happen if this election goes to a brokered convention. Will he win? There’s no way to tell for sure, and if this election has taught us anything, it’s that experts can’t predict what is going to happen.ROG: Super Tuesday is this coming Tuesday. What should we be looking for? How much does it matter?MH: Ordinarily, Super Tuesday favors candidates who can compete on a large scale. Unlike the early states, in which retails politics can propel an unknown candidate into the spotlight, on the Super Tuesday the advantage goes to candidates with name recognition, media attention and money. That means it should be even easier for Trump to win big. The real questions: Can Rubio or Cruz win any state at all — other than Cruz winning Texas? If not, Trump appears to be unstoppable.ROG: Looking more at the Democrats, Sanders beat Clinton significantly on young women 18 – 24 years old. What does this mean for either one of their campaigns? Will this hurt Clinton long term?MH: I doubt Clinton’s lack of support among young voters — or specifically, young women — will hurt her if she secures the nomination. I’d wager that most of these young voters will support Clinton in a general election. The critical questions moving forward are: 1. whether young people turn out to vote in large numbers and 2. whether younger Hispanic and African American voters continue to move toward Sanders. If either or both of those things happen, Clinton may have a difficult time securing the nomination.ROG: In your research and opinion, what do you think will be the most important issue in the general election?MH: I think it largely depends on world events, which I cannot predict. What happens in Syria. What happens on the stock market. Usually, events drive the discussion more than anything else, so I can’t predict what the discussion of issues will look like. If it’s Trump vs. Clinton, I would expect little focus on issues at all. Instead, I’d expect a campaign of insults, posturing and scandals.ROG: Taking it back to college campuses, particularly here at ND, primaries in many of our home states are coming up. What is something we, as college students, should be paying particular attention to?MH: Everyone should be figuring out right now where and how they can vote. Can you register here in Indiana? Can you vote absentee back home? Our current politics look the way they do because young people don’t participate. If every college student who talked about the election on soil media actually voted, we would get wildly different outcomes. Tags: 2016 Election Observer, Clinton, Matthew Hall, Nevada caucuses, Sanders, Super Tuesday, Trump
OVER three dozen records were broken when the Guyana Amateur Powerlifting Federation (GAPLF) held its Senior National Powerlifting Championships on Sunday at the Saint Stanislaus College in the capital city. Although a large number of participants excelled at the championships, Romario Gonsalves and Tineisha Toney were adjudged best lifters.The national competitor, Toney, who competed in the 63kg weight class, was able to accumulate 340.5 total points, which was converted to 592.24 International Powerlifting points. In total, the 19-year-old squatted 125.0kg, bench pressed 65.5kg and deadlifted 150.0kg. Toney’s bench press (144.403 lbs.) was one of the national records broken.The 21-year-old Gonsalves tallied 602.5 points (741.91 IPF points) after he squatted 222.5kg, bench pressed 120.0kg (a new record) and deadlifted 260.0kg to win the Junior Raw and Open Raw categories of his weight division.Although a whopping 37 records were broken, a 700 lbs. (317.5kg) deadlift mark by former Caribbean Championships gold medal winner, Vijai Rahim, was one of the standout performances. The talented 27-year-old finished first in the 74kg Men’s Open EQ after squatting 287kg and bench pressing 182.5 kg for a total points of 787.5kg. Rahim’s bench press and total points were also national records.There were numerous other standouts at the championships, and several of the lifters were able to register a clean sweep of performances. Leading the charge in the female division was 45-year-old Jacquelyn Toney, who won the 84kg Women’s Open Raw division with records in her squat (140.0kg), bench press (62.5kg), deadlift (147.5kg) and her overall total of (350.0kg). Toney also won the Open Raw division in the same weight class.There were two other women’s divisions. The 72kg Women’s Open Raw, which was won by Chitra John and the 84+kg Women’s Open Raw, which was won by Esther Maycock.The men had the bulk of the record-breaking performances and several of the established names were able to excel. Jermy Indarjit, who won the 66kg class of the Men’s Sb-Jr Raw division, powered his way to records in the squat (172.5kg), the bench press (85.0), the deadlift 227.5kg and the overall total of 485.0kg.Forty-year-old Nigel Phillips, who claimed two first place trophies (a win in the 93kg Men’s Open EQ and the 93kg Men’s Master 1 EQ) led the record count with six. He registered a record in the Men’s Master 1 EQ with a squat of 287.5kg, a bench press of 190kg in the same division, a deadlift of 247.5kg and a total of 725.0kg. In the Men’s Open, his 190kg bench press was also a record, so too was his total of 725kg.Martin Webster, 52, also registered multiple records. His five new marks were attained in the 93kg weight class. In the Men’s Master 2 EQ, he squatted 202.5kg, while he bench pressed 130kg, deadlifted 202.5kg and totalled 535.0kg. The Buddy’s Gym representative also registered a new record in the Men’s Open EQ for his 535.0kg total.Ramzam Mohamed ended the day with four new records with a clean sweep of the 120kg Men’s Junior EQ division. He squatted 295kg, bench pressed 165kg, deadlifted 255kg and finished with a total of 715.0kg.Dominic Tyrrell finished with three records in the 74kg Men’s Junior Raw. The 19-year-old got a record in the squat (207.5kg), the deadlift (272.5kg) and the total in the division (607.5kg).Meanwhile, Franklyn Brisport-Luke (66kg Men’s Open EQ and Men’s Masters 2 EQ) and Farouk Abdool (120kg Men’s Open EQ and Men’s Master 1 EQ) both registered two wins each at the championships.