Mentoring can help low-income HS students aspire higher

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10 2013 6:00 a.m. MDT

Of the 60 low-income high school students the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America mentors every year, all of them will matriculate into college and 87 percent will earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Elizabeth Stuart

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PBS Newshour produced a story Monday about the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, a non-profit group that selects 60 low-income students every year for services that include “an intensive six-week summer boot camp that encourages top-notch, low-income students to apply to the most selective schools in the country.”

“Although officials at schools like Princeton have long said they want to recruit a more economically diverse population, progress has been slow,” Mary Jo Brooks wrote for the PBS website. “One problem: Many low-income students don't live near cities where college recruiters go. And they rarely have role models who have attended such schools and who can guide them through the process.

“LEDA, like several other non-profit groups around the country, tries to provide that guidance. Every year, LEDA sends recruiters to overlooked geographic regions of the country, seeking high school juniors who are high-performing academically but who never imagined they could attend — or afford — an Ivy League school.”

The PBS story about LEDA hit many of the same notes as “Efforts to Recruit Poor Students Lag at Some Elite Colleges,” a front-page article in the New York Times on July 31.

“Researchers at Georgetown University have found that at the most competitive colleges, only 14 percent of students come from the lower 50 percent of families by income,” Richard Pérez-Peña wrote for the Times. “That figure has not increased over more than two decades, an indication that a generation of pledges to diversify has not amounted to much. … Groups that work with poorer students and administrators at colleges with high disadvantaged enrollment say that one main factor is simply making the effort to get low-income students to apply.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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