The Achievement First charter school network, which includes 36 schools in three states, is launching a plan to offer scholarships to students accepted to but unable to attend more selective colleges due to cost, aiming to help low-income students of color attend institutions with higher black and Hispanic graduation rates, Chalkbeat reports.
The effort is meant to reduce “undermatching” — which occurs when students are accepted into top-tier schools, but wind up going to less expensive colleges with lower academic standards — by providing about $3,000 to $7,500 in scholarship money per student per year.
The organization's board has pledged $100,000 a year to fund 20 scholarships averaging $5,000 each. Initially, the scholarship money will be taken from funding received from the state of New York, but if the program proves successful, Achievement First hopes to raise scholarship money through donations.
Undermatching also affects rural students, who are 10% more likely to undermatch than their urban peers. Rural students and districts struggle with a lack of financial resources, lack of reliable Internet connections, and the inability to attract good teachers.
One way to solve the undermatching problem is to offer high school students opportunities to earn college credit. Studies show college-level courses in high school improve a students’ chance of being successful in college. But these programs also take a bite out of the cost of college, as students can apply credits earned when they reach a college or university.
A few states offer Running Start, a dual-credit program that gives juniors and seniors the opportunity to take college level courses. The free program allows students to graduate high school with an associate’s degree, helping to defray a significant portion of the cost of college.
Low-income students who are accepted into selective schools often qualify for significant financial aid and scholarships. There are also plenty of scholarship options for low-income and minority students that are designed to encourage those with high academic skills to apply for selective universities. Schools or districts not in a position to launch their own scholarship option but wanting to make progress against undermatching might consider drawing more attention to these options and even workshopping the scholarship application process with students.