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(Don’t) Give Me Your Poor V

Fifth installment in a two week discussion of the recent New York Times article “Generation Later, Poor Are Still Rare at Elite Colleges” by Richard Perez-Pena. Interested readers should check out our collection of posts about socio-economic issues related to admissions, from which I have plagiarized extensively.

But admissions officers can visit only a small fraction of the nation’s 26,000 high schools, so they rarely see those stellar-but-isolated candidates who need to be encouraged to apply. The top schools that have managed to raise low-income enrollment say that an important factor has been collaborating with some of the nonprofit groups, like QuestBridge and the Posse Foundation, that are devoted to identifying hidden prospects, working with them in high school and connecting them to top colleges.

“stellar-but-isolated?” Give me a break. As we reviewed yesterday, the actual number of such students is de minimus, unless you (absurdly) define “stellar” as 1400 math/reading SAT scores. At Williams, scores like that are defined as “below average” for the class as a whole and “rejection worthy” for any applicant without a special attribute, mainly either black/hispanic or athletic tip.

Consider Questbridge’s own data. They included 4,773 National College Match Finalists last year. (An impressive number. Questbridge has grown into a big organization in the last decade.) But only 18% of those students had SAT scores above 1400.

Still, Questbridge is clearly playing a much larger role in the Williams admissions process. More than 12% (!) of the students admitted in to the class of 2018 were “affiliated” with Questbridge.

Does this mean I am against Questbridge? No! I love Questbridge. Any program that, at reasonable cost, brings Williams high quality applicants, especially applicants that might not have known about Williams before, is a good program. Recall our congratulations to Jonathan Wosen ’13 five years ago. Wosen was (is!) exactly the kind of student that Williams needs more of. He went on to succeed at Williams, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. (And I hope he loved his time at the College as well!) If Questbridge can bring us more applicants like Wosen, then Questbridge is worth the money.

My complaint is with those who claim that there are thousands and thousands of Jonathan Wosens out there, just waiting to be discovered and brought to Williams. There are a few. And we should try to find them. But having admission officers drive around the country to every below average high school would be a huge waste of time. And, lest you accuse me of stone heartedness, keep in mind that Williams makes very few (any) to the 50% of US high schools with student bodies who average below 1,000 on the Math/Reading SAT.

And just a cynical thought on a Friday morning: At what point does Questbridge go from being a moral cause to being a sleazy racket? Back in the day, lots of poor kids applied to Williams and many were accepted . . . and no other organization took a cut of the action. Questbridge, however, now takes a cut, standing as a toll collector between Williams and its applicants. Even if someone would have applied to Williams (and been accepted) in the absence of Questbridge, if they now sign up for the service, then Williams pays Questbridge a bunch of money. (How much is unclear to me, but I vaguely recall a number like $5,000. Does anyone know?)

Again, the more AR 1 applicants who apply (and attend!) Williams, the better, whether they be rich or poor. Admissions has a budget and if Questbridge brings us such students at a reasonable price, then we should pay them. But there is a reason that Harvard doesn’t participate in Questbridge, and it isn’t because they lack the money to do so . . . or an interest in applicants like Jonathan Wosen.

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(Don’t) Give Me Your Poor IV

Fourth installment in a two week discussion of the recent New York Times article “Generation Later, Poor Are Still Rare at Elite Colleges” by Richard Perez-Pena. Interested readers should check out our collection of posts about socio-economic issues related to admissions, from which I have plagiarized extensively.

“You can make big statements about being accessible, and have need-blind admissions and really low net prices for low-income kids, but still enroll very few of those low-income kids, by doing minimal outreach,” said Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College. “There has to be a commitment to go out and find them.”

Since when did every college president decide that coolness requires three names? Cappy Hill, or in more formal settings, Catharine Hill, was happily associated with Williams for 20+ years without anyone ever using her middle name. But now we have to include “Bond?” Weird. And Morty Schapiro seemed to do the same for a while, with his regular reminders that his middle name is Owen. Anyway, back to the article . . .


EphBlog loves Cappy Hill ’76 something fierce
, but this is misleading. Hill is implying that there are hundreds (thousands?) of low-income students with Williams-caliber credentials who don’t apply to Williams or places like it because of ignorance. But there aren’t! This is a pleasant fantasy of those who like to believe that parental wealth and student academic achievement are not as correlated as, in fact, they are. Consider the flaws in Hill’s research (pdf):

First, “high ability” is defined as 1420 or above combined math/reading SAT scores. Recall that Williams uses a system of academic ratings (AR) and that ratings below 2 are automatically rejected unless they have some special attribute like race or athletics. From Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis, here are the relevant definitions:

AR 1: “Valedictorian/top or close to top”, A record, “Exceeding most demanding program, evidence of deep intellectual curiosity, passionate interest in particular discipline”, Exceptional, Exceptional, 770–800, 750–800, 1520 — 1600, 750–800, 35–36, mostly 5s

AR 2: Top 5%, Mostly A record, “Most demanding program, many AP and Honors courses, highly significant intellectual curiosity”, Outstanding, Outstanding, 730–770, 720–750, 1450–1520, 720–770, 33-34, 4s and 5s

In other words, lots of the students (SAT 1420 to 1450) that Hill describes as “high ability” are pretty much automatic rejects at Williams (leaving aside whatever affirmative action Williams places on socio-ec diversity). Moreover, lots of the other students with SAT >= 1450 lack the grades and other scores that put them in AR 2. So, Hill is (purposely?) overestimating the pool of potential applicants.

Second, even such high ability applicants are not (meaningfully) under-represented! Hill reports that these high ability, low income students make up 10% of elite schools but 12.8% of the population. Not a big enough difference to get worked up about, I think. And certainly not enough to make me think that the returns to more “outreach” are particularly high.

Third, Hill does not control for the desires of the students. Imagine two students in Georgia, both with Academic Rating 1 students (on the Williams scale), both admitted to Williams and to the University of Georgia. Both won free rides at UGA via merit scholarships. One is student is poor and one is rich. I bet that the the poor student is much more likely to choose UGA. This preference, alone, might be enough to explain why poor students are slightly under-represented at elite schools.

Fourth, Hill does not seem to recognize that a poor student, even if as academically accomplished as the rich student, might be better off at an (excellent) state school rather than a (2nd tier?) liberal arts college like Vassar. Leave the details of this debate for another day, but it is indicative of the attitude of people like Hill that they would, in most cases, think that a student choosing UGA over Vassar is making a mistake.

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Article on Jonathan Wosen ’13

Jonathan Wosen

Congratulations:

For seven years, Jonathan Wosen has been commuting 45 minutes from his Oak Park home to the Preuss UCSD campus, where he’s about to be valedictorian and the first in his family to attend college. […]

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4: Cancel Questbridge

The Questbridge program does not cost more than $200,000 directly. (I am unsure of the exact cost to Williams but think that it is something like $5,000 per student enrolled. ) But the Questbridge students themselves, many of whom would never have applied to Williams were it not for the Questbridge connection, are very expensive, almost by definition. Cancelling Questbridge would cause fewer poor students to apply to Williams. Some of those students would be replaced by other poor students. But others would be replaced by non-poor students. Williams can stiff officially (and honestly) claim to be need-blind even if it no longer pays extra money to steer more poor applicants in our direction. (A similar effect could come from guiding admissions officers to spend more time at rich schools (especially internationally) and less time at poor schools and/or with poor students. But, since there is no specific program that one can point to on that regard, I’ll leave it aside for now.

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Newest Questbridge Ephs

Congratulations to these Ephs from the class of 2013, admitted early decision via the Questbridge program.

Claudia Corona Los Angeles, CA
Kelsey Gaetjens Lihue, HI
Maria Galvez Chicago, IL
Ivory Goudy Decatur, GA
Christopher Hikel Fryeburg, ME
Sarai Infante Bronx, NY
Christopher Simmons Los Angeles, CA
Ginette Sims Westminster, CA
Kwan Tang Brooklyn, NY
Carly Valenzuela Bermuda Dunes, CA
Laura Villafranco Jarrell, TX
Jonathan Wosen San Diego, CA

Gaetjens, Galvez and Wosen were awarded Tyngs.

Congratulations to all!

Questbridge provides background on some of the winners, but I couldn’t figure out how to link directly. So, below, are those descriptions. They seem to be written by the students themselves.
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Congratulations to The Newest Ephs

Several hundred early decision applications received this good news, leading to this letter.

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Congratulations to all. Comments:

1) Thanks to the anonymous parent for sending in these images. Future historians will thank you!

2) 616 early decision applicants is a record. Recall our debate over whether or not the financial crisis would lead to a drop in demand for a Williams education. So far, there is no evidence for that drop. I predict that we will see no decrease in regular applicants, regular yield or average student quality. Demand for a Williams education is largely recession proof.

3) The initial forecast was for 580 early applications. Are most/all of the extra 36 Questbridge?

4) 550 is a bigger target for the first year class than the normal 538 or so. Have the Trustees approved this increase in the student population? I don’t like it.

5) No smiley face?! Bring back Phil Smith ’58 ’55!

:-)

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Questbridge Ephs

A reader notes:

Questbridge has announced its most recent matches, and among them are four new Ephs: Newton Davis (Saginaw, MI), Raven Hills (Shreveport, LA), Rigoberto Ruiz-Bonilla (Santa Ana, CA by way of the Brooks School), and Ashley Terrell (Compton, CA).

Thought you/other EphBlog readers would like to know.

Indeed. Previous posts on Questbridge here.

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Questbridge ’12

Although early decision results are not due for another 10 days, applicants who applied through Questbridge apparently know whether or not they are the newest members of the Williams class of 2012. Previous Questbridge blogging here, here and here.

Welcome to our newest Ephs!

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Hurt Me or Help Me?

A female Asian-American applicant with very good grades/scores (Academic Rank 2 at least, maybe AR 1?) wants to know her chances for admissions. She is number 1 in her class and scored 1490 SATs. She writes:

Oh yeah im also a questbridge finalist…so they’ll probably accept the questbridge application…u think not being so well off financially will hurt me or help me?

This applicant would have benefited from better guidance. [She should read EphBlog! — ed. So should they all.] First, she includes an inclusion in “Who’s Who” as an accomplishment, when, in fact, WW is nothing but a scam. Second, she seems unaware that low socioeconomic status helps in elite college admissions, often quite a bit. Third, she probably should have applied early somewhere (but perhaps she did).

Anyway, what is the income cut-off to be included in Questbridge?

QuestBridge has no absolute cut-off for household income. We take many factors into consideration, including the size of a family, parents’ level of education, and any extenuating circumstances or hardships that affect a family’s financial situation.

If you are interested in the College Match, it is important to note that our college partners are specifically hoping to provide scholarships to students who would otherwise have a very difficult time affording college. Last year, the 46 College Match Scholarship recipients had incomes ranging from $0 – $60,000 per year but the range varies from year to year. Also, the 237 students admitted with generous financial aid through the Regular Admissions Process had incomes ranging from $0 – $85,000. Like QuestBridge, our colleges take many factors into consideration when determining the financial needs of a student.

With regard to Williams, absolute income is not the key factor. More important is whether or not the Admissions Office places her in the Socio-Ec 1 or Socio-Ec 2 categories. (It is not clear to me what the differences are between the two, but others things besides simple family income (parental education and jobs, high school quality) matter for that. A representative quote:

[Director of Admissions Dick] Nesbitt was pleased with the increased amount of socioeconomic diversity in the Class of 2009, one of the College’s primary admissions objectives this year. “Early indications [show] more students from lower income quintiles,” he said, based on the admissions office’s classification scheme, which considers parental education and occupation. He had not yet seen final figures on financial aid awarded.

“[This level of] socioeconomic diversity, particularly if extended over four years, will make a significant difference at Williams,” he said. Academic measures such as the SAT, which might normally be expected to decrease as the number of low-income students increases, actually bucked the trend this year. The composite SAT score was up 10 points from last year, a result that Nesbitt called “significant in light of [the additional] low-income students.”

“There was no sacrifice at all to academic quality; it seems to have improved despite the greater economic diversity,” he said.

I covered a fair amount of this socio-ec mumbo-jumbo in my commentary on the Anthony Marx lovefest in Business Week. In any event, I think that our applicant’s chances are good. Williams wants more “poor” students with high SATs.

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Questbridge ’11

Questbridge announced its initial 102 winners. The future Ephs are:

Irtefa Binte-Farid Charlottesville, Virginia

Kim Bui Solon, Ohio

Carla Cain-Walther Media, Pennsylvania

Yu Rim Chung Lakewood, California

Erika Garcia Wimberley, Texas

Chelsea Luttrell Anchorage, Alaska

Nicholas Williams Redmond, Washington

Johannes Wilson New York City, New York

Joshua Wilson New York City, New York

Congratulations to all! Details provided in the news release included:

Johannes and Joshua Wilson, twin brothers from New York, who will both attend Williams College. Their single mother works two jobs as a home health aide to support four children and her mom — all while living in Manhattan. Their father is dead. Both brothers are writing their own novels. Johannes is active in service, and is chairman of the Specialized High Schools institute. Joshua has been taking classes at Hunter College on his own initiative.

Previous Questbridge commentary here, here and here.

Welcome to the new Ephs!

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Tyng Winners

As far as I know, the College refuses to reveal the winners of Tyng Scholarships. At the very least, I can’t find any such listing on the College’s website. Is that a good policy? I don’t know. A case might be made either way. But, in the era if Questbridge, the secret is out. Tyng winners in the class of 2010 include:

Eden Amerson
Steven Cheng
Shirish Poudyal
Emily Rockett
Thomas Rubinsky

Comments:

1) Congratulations to all! We welcome you to the land of the Ephs.

2) Are these the only Tyng winners for the class of 2010?

3) What is the process by which Tyng winners are selected? I am not questioning these choices, I just want to understand the basic mechanics. My understanding is that no one “applies” for the Tyng. You just apply to Williams and, if you are lucky, the College includes a note that you have won a Tyng along with the acceptance letter. But how are Tyngs picked? Do the Tyng Administrators play a role or is this all done by the admissions office? What are the criteria? Why were these 5 picked, instead of, for example, the the other 5 Questbridge students accepted by Williams?

4) I do not like the fact that none of the Tyng winners are African-American (judging by their pictures). If it were me, Tyng Awards would be focused on bringing highly qualified African-American students to Williams. Almost every such applicant with Williams-caliber credentials is accepted by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. Historically, Williams often used the Tyng to convince such students to choose Williams instead. Has the policy changed?

6) I learned my lesson last year about connecting Williams policies to specific individuals. So, you will see no commentary from me on the individuals listed above. Reading many of the personal statements (for Williams and non-Williams people), I am struck by how critical a role the love and support of their families plays in the lives of these students.

Yet that leaves a riddle for all of those who, like Anthony Marx, think that the goal of bringing more “low-income” students, especially Questbridge applicants, into Williams should be a very high priority. (For me, it isn’t.) The riddle:

Who is more disadvantaged: a student with parents who love her and each other, but make $50,000 per year or a student with parents who don’t love her (and hate each other) but making $100,000?

For me the answer is obvious. I would much rather my daughters were raised in a loving family than in a rich one. Would any reader disagree? All the people who argue that the lack of socio-economic diversity at Williams is an important problem seem to, paradoxically, place too much emphasis on the importance and effects of family income instead of family support. If you want to worry about anyone, worry about applicants who lack caring parents.

UPDATE: Thanks to Guy for pointing the link errors. Now fixed.

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Taylor Thesis IV: Questbridge

Taylor provides some interesting details on Questbridge in pages 29-30.

A very new initiative for Williams is participation in the QuestBridge Program, which is a third party service that matches low-income, high-ability students with the top colleges and universities in the nation. The QuestBridge Program actively targets low-income students with the promise that if these students are able to become QuestBridge scholars, they will be given the opportunity to attend a prestigious university for no fee. QuestBridge rigorously chooses their scholars, and then matches the students with appropriate institutions based on their academic qualifications and their ability to qualify for a full ride. The program is effective because of its simple advertising campaign, which is easy for low-income students to understand, and because it takes a lot of the work out of the college search for these students. Since many low-income students are the first in their families to attend college, they are unfamiliar with the college application process, and the QuestBridge program simplifies the process for them. QuestBridge is attractive to colleges and universities because it identifies qualified low-income applicants, saving these institutions the trouble of finding these students themselves. It is helping these institutions reach out to low-income students by increasing awareness about the feasibility of attending a selective school.

The program is relatively new, as it was started in 2003, but seems to be valuable and effective thus far. For the 2004-2005 applicant year, Williams received 8 1 “matches” from the QuestBridge program. The college determined that 14 of these 8 1 actually qualified as needing a full ride under Williams’ financial aid equation, and all 14 were accepted. Of these students, 6 were male and 8 were female, and at least 9 of them were minority students. The students came fi-om all reaches of the United States, fi-om Hawaii to Texas to New York. In addition to these admits, Williams also contacted a number of other students from the QuestBridge list, telling them that the College could not offer them a full ride but that it could give them a great aid package and encouraging them to apply. Of these, seven students applied to Williams and accepted the offers of admission. Only one of these students was male, and five were minorities. With the QuestBridge program, Williams is essentially contracting out some of its admissions work, and this year received 21 students that otherwise inight not have applied. The college pays QuestBridge a $15,000 annual fee, then pays $4,000 for each student obtained through the program that completes his or her first year at Williams.

See here for previous EphBlog posts on Questbridge.

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Questbridge

Considering that seven percent of Williams’ incoming first year class is arriving as a result of the Questbridge program, it’s interesting to get some insight into the program and the types of students it recruits. Here are profiles of some of the Questbridge students headed to Williams next year.

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