Partnership encourages low-income students to aim high

Colleges application fees waived; financial aid detailed
October 8, 2013
Harvard University is one of the prestigious institutions offering to waive application fees to  low-income students through a new partnership. COURTESY WIKIMEDIA

A new partnership between the state of Delaware and the College Board could mean more opportunities for low-income students applying to institutions of higher learning.

“The College Board is delighted to partner with Delaware on this critical effort to expand access to opportunity for students,” said David Coleman, president of the College Board. “The Delaware partnership is at the forefront of the College Board’s efforts to ensure that students across the country pursue the opportunities they have earned.”

The College Board was created in 1900 to expand access to higher education and simplify the application process for students and college admission offices. The Student Achievement Test eventually replaced College Board entry tests; the College Board continues to administer the SAT to college-bound students.

The College Board partnership with Delaware is intended to help high-achieving, low-income students apply to some of the nation's most prestigious institutions of higher learning – Stanford, MIT and all the Ivy League schools.

For students in the program, college application fees are waived. They also receive detailed information about financial aid available to them, said Cathy Rossi, spokeswoman for Gov. Jack Markell.

Concern over the low number of low-income students who apply to selective universities arose after a Stanford professor researched the situation. Research found low-income students are often unaware of financial aid available to them, and they are unlikely to have had a mentor who attended a selective university, Rossi said.

“Our education system must prepare students with the skills most valued by colleges and employers, while also ensuring they have access to education opportunities after high school graduation,” said Markell in a press release. “Too many students are turned off to a college because they don’t know about all of the available financial assistance or they underestimate their qualifications. Our partnership with the College Board is a significant step toward solving these challenges.”

Delaware will reach out to a broad set of students to help them recognize all their options. More than 2,000 seniors will receive materials tailored to their needs, including information about how to research colleges, details of Delaware scholarship programs and a letter of encouragement from Delaware’s colleges and universities, Markell said.

All students who qualify will receive application-fee waivers. These waivers already are available to low-income students, but Markell said, these students often don't know about the waivers or struggle with the process for requesting them.

All high school seniors who have demonstrated college readiness will receive a packet, no matter their income level, said Jonathan Dworkin, Markell's communications advisor. However, he said, only students whose household income is $40,000 or less are eligible for application waivers.

Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said the partnership is the latest effort to improve college access to high school students.

“Our department's vision is to ensure all students graduate college and career ready, and we are working toward that goal by addressing four key areas: affordability, academic readiness and persistence through college, alliances across K-12 and our post-secondary system and connecting highly qualified students with top schools,” Murphy said. “This project touches on all of those areas.”