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Talent on the sidelines

first_imgEvery 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.”last_img read more

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Construction contracts increase in both VT and NH

first_imgStatistics show that although construction in Vermont during the month of February looked to be slowing, overall contracts for future construction are above last years values. This includes residential, non-residential and nonbuilding construction. February and year-to-date data for Vermont:Similar statistics for the state of New Hampshire also show a significant increase in future construction contracts for the year 2011. February and year-to-date data for New Hampshire:Source: McGraw-Hill Constructionlast_img read more

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Allders chooses McAlpine for £20m site

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

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Lobster mini-season could be canceled

first_imgThis upcoming lobster mini-season is in danger of being canceled after authorities in the Keys wrote a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis urging him to prevent the event from happening.The village of Islamorada sent the letter to the governor stating their fear that the season would send an influx of visitors to the area while the number of COVID cases continue to rise.While Islamorada wants the event canceled in their area, Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker says that they do not plan to cancel mini-season in Palm Beach.Baker says she feels it is safe to continue because charter dive boats have been mandated to operate at half capacity.last_img read more

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South Puget Sound Celebrates Adult Literacy Week

first_imgFacebook0Tweet0Pin0 Submitted by South Puget Sound Community CollegeSouth Puget Sound Community College is joining other community and technical colleges state-wide in celebrating Adult Literacy Week.“Washington’s economic growth and prosperity depends on our ability to make education and job training universally accessible to citizens of all ages and backgrounds,” Gov. Christine Gregoire said in a proclamation recognizing Oct. 15-20 as Adult Literacy Week across the state.Critical to improving the job skills and basic skills of Washingtonians, South Puget Sound Community College, as well as other community and technical colleges in the state, offer a variety of Adult Basic Education programs, from GED and IBEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training), to English as a Second Language, and more.Education plays a key role in supporting the economic vitality of Washington state, and South Puget Sound Community College plays an important part in that education process, helping people build better skills in search of better jobs to help build a better Thurston County.For more information about South Puget Sound’s Adult Basic Education offerings, visit www.spscc.ctc.edu/programs/abe. For more about statewide Adult Literacy Week information, visit www.sbctc.ctc.edu/college/_e-abe_litweek.aspx.last_img read more

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