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.”
With so many options on the market, growers have had to learn how to manage different varieties. In Terrell County, McGhee used different seed varieties from different companies, planted them in field trials and harvested the crops to see what variety worked best in his county. “We rely heavily on cooperation with our county agents to get these trials planted and harvested,” Whitaker said. “We use the information from these trials implemented by our agents to get an idea of how well varieties perform across the state.” Nick McGhee, Terrell County Extension coordinator, is one of those cooperating Extension agents.“This program is something that a lot of the growers in Terrell County can benefit from. Cotton variety selection is an important decision that they face every year,” he said. With cotton prices plummeting below 60 cents this winter, selecting a variety to plant for the upcoming season is a critical decision for Georgia farmers. The University of Georgia Cotton Variety Selection Program provides growers with the research-based information they need to produce the state’s No. 1 row crop.UGA Extension agronomist Jared Whitaker, who helped start the program, said he has seen the right variety choice add $100 an acre or more to a farmer’s bottom line. In 2014, DP 1252 B2RF, CG3783 B2RF and PHY 333 WRF were the varieties with statistically similar and highest average lint yield when averaged across all 20 trials. With regards to consistency across those trials, those same varieties had yields within the top three of 12 varieties evaluated in at least 45 percent of the 20 trials. For more information about variety performance from this program, contact your local county agent or visit the UGA Cotton Web page at ugacotton.com.The data produced from the cotton variety selection can be seen at ugacotton.com/cotton-variety-selection/.According to UGA’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, Georgia produced more than $1.2 billion in cotton in 2013. “We started the program so that we could evaluate a small set of promising varieties across a large number of locations and environments to observe performance in various situations and get an idea of where varieties perform best and which are most consistent,” Whitaker said.Jeff Davis County cotton farmer Wayne Herndon has helped with the program since its inception. Whitaker uses Herndon’s land to plant and test different cotton varieties. “The program allows us to see what variety works best in different types of soil and environments,” Herndon said. “And it has helped me decide what varieties to plant.”Rather than growing cotton in just one part of the state for the UGA program, Whitaker aims to grow cotton in different counties across Georgia to see how the different varieties perform in various environments. Cotton seed can be expensive, and yields can be attributed to the variety that farmers choose. According to McGhee, cotton producers have the potential to increase their gross revenue by more than $3.5 million annually in Terrell County if they choose the right variety. “They were all planted in the same field and managed the same way, which determined what variety yielded the best,” McGhee said. (Jordan Hill is an intern with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Mike Alleman grabbed the early lead but just as the leaders were moving into heavy traffic, a lap seven caution bunched the field. On the restart, Duke, who had moved from sixth starting position into third, shot to the front. Nick Sweigart, Jake Frye and Alleman rounded out the top five. Feature results – 1. Ken Duke Jr.; 2. Doug Dodson; 3. Nick Sweigart; 4. Jake Frye; 5. Mike Alleman; 6. Zachery Newlin; 7. Tyler Cochran; 8. Drew Ritchey; 9. John Fiore; 10. Devin Adams; 11. Kyle Ganoe; 12. John Walp; 13. Brad Mellott; 14. Cale Reigle; 15. Colton Hoover; 16. Terry Schaeffer; 17. Donnie Hendershot; 18. Keith Prutzman; 19. Dave Wickham; 20. Jim Kennedy; 21. Dave Graber; 22. Ryan Lynn. SPRING RUN, Pa. (April 13) – Ken Duke Jr. preserved his 2019 Pennsylvania Sprint Series winning streak Saturday night, winning the 20-lap feature race at Path Valley Speedway more than four tenth’s of a second over Doug Dodson. The longest green-flag run of the night followed a lap nine restart and Duke made it through traffic well enough to keep his challengers at bay. Terry Schaeffer got into the turn three wall with two laps remaining, but on the restart, Duke chose the middle lane and held off the outside-running Dodson for the win. The second-place finish was also the season’s best for Dodson, a PASS rookie with extensive experience in other sprint car divisions and super sportsman. This year’s large PASS/IMCA rookie class includes several drivers who are rookies in name only: Keith Prutzman has been racing for more than four decades. On Saturday night, April 20, PASS returns to BAPS Motor Speedway to complete a feature called due to rain on April 7 after one lap had been completed. A full show of heats and another 20-lap feature will be run as well. On Friday, April 26, PASS will join the Laurel Highlands Sprint Series for a co-sanctioned event at Clinton County Motor Speedway, and it will return to Port Royal Speedway on April 27. The Selinsgrove racer has now captured all three IMCA RaceSaver Sprint Car features run so far, but this was hardly an easy win. With 21 of the 22 sprinters on hand making the call for the feature, traffic was an incessant issue on the wide Path Valley quarter mile.