This week’s project is to highlight the most interesting aspects of Lindsey Taylor’s 05 thesis “Low-income students and college admissions : a case study of Williams College,” advised by President Schapiro. Thanks again to College Librarian David Pilachowski for making this work electronically available to all. Although the readership of EphBlog is not large, it is in the hundreds. Disseminating the best writing/research of Williams students is one of our goals. The five posts this week are an example.

Each day, I’ll be quoting portions of the thesis and providing brief commentary. Let’s start with the abstract.

Low-income students are severely underrepresented at elite institutions of higher education like Williams College, and any demand that their population be increased must consider the value of having low-income students at such an institution. This study examines low-income students that were admitted and matriculated to Williams based on data from their college applications, comparing their qualities and characteristics to their more affluent peers to determine where these students fall in both the academic and nonacademic spectra of Williams students. The performance of low income students once they arrive at Williams is analyzed in relation to the rest of the student body. An explanation of the College’s policies toward and history of admissions and financial aid as well as of new initiatives undertaken by the College to actively recruit talented, low-income students provides a context for this study. It appears that having socio-economically disadvantaged students at Williams is in no way lowering the standards set by the more advantaged students. Most low-income students are a valuable addition to the campus, possessing a respectable array of academic and non academic characteristics that place them solidly in the upper middle range of students in most respects.

Comments:

1) This is a great topic. More economics theses should be written about Williams. The smaller your focus, the better the result. The fewer your predecessors, the more valuable your contribution.

2) It is nice to see an abstract. Not all economics theses at Williams seem to have abstracts. (At least Jen Doleac’s ’03 did not.) They all should.

3) Spectra? I need to brush up on my Latin, obviously.

4) Taylor somewhat buries the lead when she notes that “It appears that having socio-economically disadvantaged students at Williams is in no way lowering the standards set by the more advantaged students.” This is true, as she demonstrates, but it suggests that the lack of more representation from low income students at Williams is appropriate. In other words, if Williams were unfairly discriminating against low income students, then we would expect these students to do better then their peers. Since they do about the same, Williams is not discriminating. This means that the current proportion is about “right.”

5) Taylor claims that low income students are “solidly in the upper middle range of students” at Williams. I know that she wants this to be true, but I don’t see where she demonstrates this.

6) Annoyingly, the pdf version of the thesis that the College provides is 77 (!) meg. Of course, I should not complain since I have pushed so hard for any access. Also, given that the College had no option other than to scan in the pages and the turn those scans into pdf’s, it isn’t clear that it could make the file smaller. But the CEP ought to change the thesis requirements so that students need to hand in an electronic and hard copy of their theses (whether public access is provided is a different question).

Although you should of course all read the Taylor’s thesis for yourselves, I hope to highlight some of the more interesting bits over the course of the week.

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