‘A National Admissions Office’ for Low-Income Strivers

QuestBridge has quietly become a force in college admissions. On some elite campuses, 1 in 10 students come from the program.

Comments: 136

  1. I taught at both a regional state school and one of the country's most selective schools. The difference was like night and day and this program is a tremendous opportunity for these young people. But wait...

    The fact that the difference has grown so big should not be taken as evidence that the elite college was doing a good job. It wasn't.

    If I explained the details of how bad the education was at the elite college, and how that was a conscious decision by faculty and administrators, it might be barely believable to many people. (And I do explain it on my blog.)

    On the other hand, if I described what I saw at the regional school (and I do on my blog), it would be so unbelievable that any sane person would believe I was imagining it.

    I greatly admire the McCulloughs and what they are doing. But, at the same time, I am saddened that the state of higher education has come to this - that it is a breath of fresh air to get a so-so education. That is what many elite colleges deliver these days - along with fabulous dorms and food, and little discipline, either mentally or physically.

  2. a wondeful program in many ways truly laudable.....but it promulgates the myth that only elite private colleges provide excellent education and entre to great opportunities I am a a white middle class kid totally educated in NY state schools and I became any IVY league medical school Prof....

  3. While that may be true, you undermine your own argument to a degree by insinuating the superiority of professorship at an Ivy League institution over that at any of the non-elite colleges to which you refer.

  4. So we have vast swathes of country where the majority of the young men are illiterate high-school dropouts. So what is the solution to this problem? Ah, let's find a few dozen of smartest ones and send them to Harvard!

    Somehow, in terms of solving a massive social problem, this is a bit unrealistic, or even counterproductive. It would be much better to devote resources that would help the vast numbers of not-so-talented. Maybe their reading and writing isn't the greatest, but with proper training they could learn a trade and earn a living. They could become plumbers, electricians, welders, truck drivers, etc, and become useful taxpayers and citizens in large numbers.

    Then maybe their kids could go to a really good college....

  5. Why do the two ideas need to be mutually exclusive?

  6. The young woman profiled in this piece is getting a Masters degree in education so she can teach in low-income communities. One person who, by the time she retires, will have influenced, educated and encouraged hundreds of children to think beyond their immediate circumstances and imagine a brighter future.

    It's called the multiplier effect. We need more multipliers.

  7. In the old days, people could teach with a high school degree, then with a bachelors and now with a masters -- inflation?? I don't see education improving much if at all... (Sometimes it's all "The Wizard of Oz" -- scarecrow time... When does one get a brain??")

    Try living/working in an Appalachian or inner city community... It can be heartbreaking. The current cult of $$ really needs to come to an end. Where are the TRs and the FDRs? Where is the national conscience?? BTW the world needs plumbers, tree cutters, window washers, home health care workers as much as it needs brokers!!!

  8. The fact that this kind of equal opportunity for poor, often "un-white" Americans is so rare should be an embarrassment to our so-called political, educational, cultural and moral leaders.

    This program should be a integral part of any nation that calls itself egalitarian.



  9. What a distasteful comment. Numerically, there are more poor whites than poor blacks in this country, and the number of poor Hispanics and Asians is growing every day. Let's work together to make sure *every* young person with smarts has the ability to go to college - and stop wasting time with divisive racial arguments that benefit no one.

  10. Have you been on the campus of a top tier university lately?

    The majority are non-white and mostly of Asian descent.

    Let's stop making excuses.

  11. Rare? You are joking, right? Surely you are aware of the Gates Millennium Scholarships, which doles out 1000 full scholarships annually to minority students. Or the 200+ scholarships available exclusively to African American applicants listed at collegenet.com, a reputable source of information about paying for college. Or perhaps you are forgetting about President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" program, which--among other remedial activities--prepares black, and only black, boys for college. What about the community college systems in virtually every state that locates campuses (read plural) in areas easily accessible to minority residents. You might want to visit the website of any--pick one at random--elite college or university and read about the huge investment it makes in outreach to and financing of minority applicants.

    I guess I just can't take a joke when the truth is at stake.

  12. I don't see how this can possibly work: they don't tell the kids that they are victims of an oppressive society that is stacking the cards against them.
    They don't tell them they should have special access to schools simply because of the color of their skin.
    I mean - without those twin liberal standby's - how can they actually expect kids to be successful on their own intrinsic merits?

  13. The fact that a few extraordinary individuals can beat a stacked deck doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to unstack the deck. We can admire the remarkable things they have done, without using them as an excuse to write off everyone else.

  14. And what about the middle class and upper middle class students who will never qualify for enough financial aid to attend an elite college, but have worked hard and are totally qualified? And whose parents have worked hard and saved for college for their children but could never come up with enough to pay for one of the elite colleges?

    It would appear that it is just not fashionable to care about them. They're out there hustling to find merit scholarships at lesser colleges as that is truly their only choice. Unfortunately, these merit scholarships are few and far between and only a tiny percentage of these worthy students/families will get one. They end up going to state schools and coming out with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

    Something wrong here...

  15. I totally agree. Those "worthless" Rotary Scholarship-type programs, based more on merit than need, helped my 3 middle-class white boys get through state college with less debt. But the fact that my husband and I worked hard, saved our money by living below our means, and supported our kids all through the elementary ed years, meant that no college or scholarship program gave a darn about them, expecting us to bankrupt ourselves for their education.

  16. Elite and selective colleges are among the most affordable, since they meet 100% of need and do it through gifts and scholarships and not loans.

  17. My husband and I are making the same types of sacrifices for our one middle-class non-white girl. Why bring race into this discussion? Being non-white (specifically, being black) did not entitle or qualify our daughter to/for any aid or admission breaks.

  18. One of the saddest admissions/recruitment stories I've heard, is the family that wouldn't believe the Questbridge flier, because they'd gotten so many fliers that were exaggerations, fakes, or frauds. So, I'm glad you're writing about this program. Like others like it, in the past, including a GI bill, it offers outsiders a way in to the system. Completely fair? no. addressing all the failures of education? no. Reversing all the effects of past discrimination and systemic racism? no. But, an individual hope for some.

  19. "Two, large amounts of well-meaning scholarship money — from private sources as well as from Washington and state governments — is fairly ineffectual. It helps many students who would graduate from college regardless"

    And we know this...because...?

  20. When you have third-world problems living in a first-world country, sometimes you need the extra push and/or pull of QuestBridge.

  21. @GCFan: The way I read his remark was that the kids who currently are getting the "well-meaning scholarship money" don't really need it - they'd go to [the same?] college anyway. Such a sweeping generalization needs documentation.

    Also: I LOVED George Carlin.

  22. QuestBridge is undoubtedly an excellent program for many low-income students. But with today's cut-throat admissions game, it's also a backdoor into elite colleges that can be exploited.

    Back in the early 2000s, when I was a senior in high school, a classmate of mine became a QuestBridge scholar. This kid lived in a nice house in an upper-middle class San Diego neighborhood, and he drove a brand new Mercedes. He ended up getting into Stanford - perhaps partially due to his QuestBridge affiliation.

    I'm all for programs that help needy students, but any such program needs to really vet their applicants. There are just too many cut-throat, Tiger-mom driven, unethical high school students that are willing to bend the rules to get into their dream school.

  23. Getting in is only the first step. How to ensure that these children truly get educated is more important. After coming from highly disadvantaged backgrounds, these kids need remedial help to catch up to their peers. Throwing them into an Ivy-league isn't all that it is cracked up to be when they are faced with poor grades and a culture that is alien to them. Yes, some make it through but many are scarred.

  24. "They plan to offer prizes in some cases to high school juniors, like a summer program or a free laptop, to persuade them to apply."

    The article terms them "strivers", but would true strivers need a gift of a free laptop to encourage them to apply to a program giving 4-year college scholarships?

  25. The laptop serves as tangible proof that opportunities can happen. Please remember that a laptop is out of reach for many low income teens. Being able to check email, research for papers, and use a word processing program at home enables a student to work toward their dream of college

  26. Excellent observation. I would like to see the graduation rate of these QuestBridge recruits and equally important, what they majored in.

  27. @Gerry, I bet they all have iphones though

  28. Wow!

    What a great organization.

    Who says kindness and decency doesn't beat in the heart of most Americans.

    I can't wait to get involved.

  29. I am really surprised at the general negativity of the previous comments here. I spent 35 years at a large research public as a professor and, later, as an administrator. Despite a menacing legislature and governor, a "business is the only business" Board of Trustees, and a bureaucratic administration, we delivered a good education to our undergraduates at a bargain rate. They were able to graduate in four years and benefited tremendously from their experience.

    Increasing access to a college education is an important, if incremental, means of keeping the dream of success in our society alive. It's not the complete cure, but that is no reason to denigrate it. And middle- and upper-class students are not failures if they can't afford or get into so-called "elite" institutions. There are good publics out there within their reach, academically and financially. What you do in college is more important than where you go.

    Poor students don't have enough alternatives, and that's why this initiative is a positive step in providing access.

  30. Thirdarm, you forgot to mention "and an administration that wanted to cut the $2 million computer science department to add $5 million to the football team's budget". At least I suspect that's the university you're talking about, given your location.

    And if you could make positive change happen there, you're right--you can make it happen ANYWHERE. Kudos.

  31. Thirdarm, I have to tell you, I am pretty flabbergasted by the comments here too. I had no idea how little the average NYT reader knew about higher education.

  32. A very different view - and an accurate one from my professorial experience - can be found in the excellent "Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality" by Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton.

    The authors show how one major state university poorly serves students from lower-income families by spending the school's resources on wealthier out-of-state "party path" students. There is a better ROI (return on investment) on funds allocated to supporting these party students.

  33. Hmmm, if you are a decent student who has parents who either by choice (i.e. liberal arts major) or through circumstances are low-income that child will get a free ride at a top tier school.
    Meanwhile, a NYC professional family with an income of $ 250,000 and a kid with incredible SATs will probably have to consider state schools since their child will be rejected from top tier schools for being too "white or asian". And even if they did get in the family would have to pay full freight with after-tax dollars.
    Now, I understand that $ 250,000 seems like a lot of money in Iowa but in NYC where parking spaces go for a million let's be real. And unless my child wins a Nobel Prize they will never be admitted over a low-income child with much lower grades and scores since it doesn't fit the College's "diversity" agenda. It seems that when it comes to College Education it pays to be poor.

  34. There are a lot of common misunderstandings on display in your letter. Do you know what percentage of students at the Ivies are from underrepresented groups? Very very few. Your child's spot was not taken by one them -- it was either taken by a hyper-prepared student from your race/class or by a wealthy student from a foreign country. As for this dichotomy between Ivies and State Schools, you are missing many, many in between private schools that provide great educations -- and many of these will provide merit aid for top students. Finally, as for the pernicious idea that your child from a fairly affluent home (yeah, $250K is fairly affluent, and not just according to people like me from the I-states) in a culturally rich area is more worthy than a student who succeeds in a challenging environment, I say no way. I would say that all things being equal (yeah wouldn't that be nice) the kid who rises out of a challenging world in spite of all the obstacles has a lot more grit and chance of success than the kid from the good home with the high SAT scores.

  35. Normally, I don't get into comment replies, but this one has such colossal misperceptions of the reality of higher education and society in general that I feel it's important to respond.

    The empirical percentages simply do not bear out any of the claims here. Need-based scholarships reach a very small portion of the poor community. Being "poor" does not pay anywhere in our society, especially these days, as the poor fall farther and farther behind the rich.

    Getting into a "top tier" school does not ensure success, and there are great and affordable alternatives. Motivated students of means will find good schools, and, wherever they attend, they will more likely be successful than students who feel entitled or "pedigreed" by old school ties.

    Go to any freshman orientation and observe. You won't find the white, upper-middle class underrepresented.

  36. No reason to use $250,000. Our family income is a little more than half of that we are in the same boat: "Congratulations you are accepted! Your out of pocket cost is full list price!. That is ~half of your take home pay, or all of it if you have more than 1 child. Not to worry we see you have home equity and retirement savings. We can show you how to transfer your life savings into our bank account. A nice bumper sticker is enclosed as token of our appreciation."

  37. Anyone who talks about "elite" colleges in the sense that they are substantially better than what I will call average land grant colleges is showing how superficial he is. I am a lawyer and I have seen Harvard and Yale lawyers who are (in a practical sense) dumber than stumps, and I have seen very sophisticated, effective lawyers from law schools whose ratings are low. (See Capital Law School in Ohio)

    The one real advantage that "elite" universities give their students is that mediocrities, such as George Bush, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy can use the connections they make to obtain advantages in the political sphere.


  38. Elite colleges and graduate schools reflect a level of success and intelligence needed to gain entrance. They serve as an official recognition that is priceless in the real world.

  39. You will find bright people at big public land grant schools. And they will succeed there. But the average student at the average big public school (with some clear exceptions) is not as well prepared and not as engaged as a student at a selective college. And since many students are shaped most by their peers, many students will greatly benefit from finding a more bright, engaged peer group. Perhaps that is at an Ivy, more likely it is at a small liberal arts college, the kind featured in Loren Pope's book, Colleges that Change Lives.

  40. What a ridiculous bunch of generalizations. I truly believe that a motivated person can get an outstanding education at ay college or university (with the possible exception of religious ones like Liberty and Regents which are too agenda-driven for real education to take pace). At the same time, elite institutions have that nickname for a reason. My family has experience with both elite institutions and large, public institutions, and there is no question that it is easier to get into good classes with top quality professors at elite institutions. Students have more opportunities to be in small classes and have quality time with professors at elite institutions. There are more opportunities like working in labs as an undergraduate at elite institutions. And I could go on.

    Finally, none of the three men you cited is a mediocrity. Legacy connections no longer carry as much weight as they used to at Ivy League and other elite colleges, which is a good thing, but your need to smear these distinguished people to make your point is offensive. I am not in political agreement with all of them, but would nonetheless admit to their having risen to the highest levels of accomplishment. You just sound bitter.

  41. Twelve years ago I moved from a culture teeming with tiger moms to a college town in the rural inland northwest. When my son got to high school I was stunned by the lack of resources devoted to college preparation and the lack of engagement among families in the process. I saw very bright, motivated kids woefully underprepared for the rigor of selective college admissions, as if they had trained to be sprinters but did not understand how fast you had to run to be competitive. After my son entered college, I started a non-profit to help kids and families, and I have started to pursue a certificate in college and career planning to be a better resource in my community. I have learned that there are incredible amounts to learn and know to navigate the college admissions process. We all know this -- that's why families who can spend a fortune to help their kids with college admissions. And their efforts (done only to help their kids, I know) serve to heighten the already huge gap between the big city/wealthy suburban haves and all of the many have-nots, from the urban poor to the families in the fly-over states who haven't received the memo and don't know the hand shake.
    It's a huge problem, there needs to be a long term solution. But in the meantime, QuestBridge really helps. They have reached out to our rural families too.

  42. Your approach is refreshing. All about help paid for by voluntary donations. Nothing about government subsidies or quotas. I support you but not government backed student loans, government scholarships, or any form of quota, other than merit.

  43. Yes, many middle-class parents are struggling to send their children to college. The difference between their children and the children of low-income parents (with comparable academic promise), is that the middle-class children are going to college and graduating at considerably higher rates. QuestBridge appears to be trying to address one part of the problem. What it is likely doing is enabling a limited number of low-income students to go to schools they could never have otherwise afforded and that have considerably higher graduation rates than the ones they would have otherwise attended. That effort is to be commended and whining about how unfair it is that a few poor kids get a break seems to me to be out of line.
    What a small organization with limited resources can't do is address the overall inequities in higher education. To address the larger issues we need, first of all, to restore and then increase state support of public higher education. That's where the vast majority of low and middle income students go to college and that's where private costs have increased as states have simply stopped paying.

  44. There is no such thing as a free lunch. The completely free education for this group of students mean more expensive education for everyone else who is paying. The schools have to make up the tuition loss somehow. All these social engineering schemes, either to prop up one group or another for whatever reason, is on the backs of mostly middle income families who are increasingly having difficulty putting their children through college, all because we have to pay for the poor, blacks, Hispanics, native Americans, college athletes...everyone else on top of our own children's education.

  45. Middle class families receive great financial support at the colleges that participate in QuestBridge. These schools are a tremendous bargain for middle class kids who get in because they meet 100% of need without loans. And these schools pay for a lot of their aid out of huge endowments. The place where middle class families get squeezed is in public schools which do not meet 100 percent of need and which offer loan based financial aid. And it's not social engineering which caused this problem -- it's the refusal to fund public education with tax dollars.

  46. Back up this assertion with some financial reports from the Ivy League institutions mentioned in this article, please.

  47. Wake me up when one of these QuestBridge recruits actually graduate with a STEM degree, otherwise it's just more social engineering by do-gooder liberals to get more people useless liberal arts degrees at the expense of other self paying college students (or taxpayers through loans).

  48. Wow. Did you read the article? How is this "at the expense of other self paying college students"? Cynics never prosper.

  49. Beth Ann: Couldn't agree more. Math does not discriminate. You either know it or not. Name one Fields Medalist who was African-American? Answer: Odysseus's famous reply, "No Man". But I grant you that the Egyptian Euclid was a great Mathematician but he hasn't been around in these parts for more than 2,300 years ...

  50. Did you happen to look at the slide show, Beth Ann? You'll see successful questbridge students and graduates. Your notion that the only successful degree is a STEM degree is a little odd. There are many bright successful students not motivated toward STEM and there are successful careers that don't require it.

  51. Equal opportunity for all. How though? College is not for everyone, the world needs trades too, but everyone should have same opportunity to go to college. If true that growing up in upper-middle class environment results in higher SAT scores, grades, then there should be some adjustment factor for poorer kids. I get that. Goal is to even the playing field, not tilt it against more well to do kids. If Questbridge can identify kids of equal or better ability than nonQuestbridge kids, great for society; if they only identify kids that come from disadvantaged backgrounds, not so great.

  52. Truly, I cannot imagine any circumstance in which it is possible for the "playing field" to be "tilted against more well-to-do-kid." The advantages of well-to-do kids are already so large that the "tilt" is simply a step in the direction of true equal opportunity.

  53. Some people are so used to having an advantage that when the playing field is leveled, they feel cheated.

  54. Bravo to QuestBridge which has come a long way. Disappointed, don't forget those low income students still have to be admitted on their academic merit. Recently saw an article on "college/university legacies," the original affirmative action or preferential admission programs. Don't worry Disappointed, those well to do kids will get excellent educations. No tables have been overturned in this arena.

  55. President Obama, who says he is looking around for things he can do without the help of Congress, should start by throwing out the whole crazy-quilt of ridiculous forms and regulations the federal education bureaucracy has created with the sole purpose of unnecessarily complicating-up the process of applying for financial assistance to attend college so as to protect its own jobs and prerogatives.

  56. Elite schools have a much harder time than public ones in attracting the variety of students they need to provide all students with an environment that prepares them for the real world. They view economic diversity in their student body as an essential part of good education, and this program helps them achieve it. I have seen students from very poor homes thrive in the small classes and personal support provided by many elite schools, and I have seen students from wealthy homes gain a better understanding of the society in which they live. But poor students often see these schools as out of reach, instead incurring great debt going to sometimes lesser schools or getting lost in large state schools.

  57. My daughter's high school career counselor advised her the QuestBridge had never been awarded to any qualified student there. She was required, by the terms of applying at QuestBridge, to forego other scholarship opportunities at upper level universities. She did not get the QuestBridge. A life lesson for her about stars of others shining brighter. She went on to being awarded a full ride 4 yr scholarship by the U of O for a chemistry career.

  58. It's wonderful that you live in a state with a great public university that is able to offer great financial support to top students. That's how good public education is supposed to work.

  59. Although it is great that there is support for students who would not otherwise have access to "top" schools, it does not address the real issue.

    The real issue is the pervasive income inequality in the US and the significant advantages (name, connections) conferred to individuals who attended the Ivy League schools or similar "top" colleges.

    A degree from an Ivy League school should not be the "gatekeeper" to a decent job and decent income.

  60. There are plenty of public universities that open the gate to "a decent job and a decent income." This story is about Questbridge, a way for people to enter other sorts of institutions.

  61. I disagree. If you can get into a top "Ivy League" school, and you continue to do well, you do deserve to get a better job than somebody who went to an easier, less competitive school.

    If you want pure equality, government enforced "equality" is a proven failure -Cuba and Venezuela are crime infested corrupt cesspools.

    It's not easy to succeed, but at least in America, if you work hard, you've got a decent chance to make it.

  62. In response to "Kate", I appreciate your comment. The Ivy League is generally the gatekeeper to the finer things in life: money, position and power. Wherever you find money and power, you will find Ivy graduates.

    Harvard is vastly overrepresented on the Supreme Court. Even unknown guys from Arkansas had to get a Yale Law degree to be considered a hot property in politics. We say we are a society that values individual initiative, but we elect as presidents people who started fast and took advantage of what was laid before them. Our presidential elections have often been a contest between one prep school boy with an Ivy League degree versus another prep school boy with an Ivy League degree. Some democracy.

    My first freshman history class in college was taught by a Harvard Ph,D. My first boss in television news was a Harvard undergrad. I have gone toe to toe with the product of elite schools (and hired some, too), so I am not in awe of the presumably superior education they received. My Harvard trained boss would have given up his degree for the talents of those he was bossing (he really wanted to be an on-air person more than anything). What I would like, however, is the idea that when you say "hello" in meeting someone new, you are already considered impressive.

  63. This is important above all for the students who get these scholarships but it is also crucial for the wealthier students who are their classmates and who have for the most part grown up in a bubble protecting them from real life. I learned important lessons from my ten years in public school with mostly working and lower middle class kids that were very different from what I learned in my next eleven at a top prep school and two Ivies. And I certainly had many more female role models, most of them African-American, holding me often to a much higher standard.

  64. Those who believe that all the world needs is the service echelon plus a bunch of STEM graduates to be serviced, have brain stems that are minus a few branches, and are socially stunted elitists..

  65. Nonsense. Most of those are tiny countries with homogenous populations. They are not comparable. Compare Singapore to Masaachusetts. Compare the US as a whole to Europe as a whole, including Portugal, Spain, Italy, and eastern Europe. Where are we in that comparison?

  66. The QS ranking of world universities, regarded as the most rigorous of its type, released their 2014 report Monday: the US has 51 of the world's top 200 schools. I agree we do a poor job of educating most of our children; but we have many of the best universities. We need to do a better job of making them accessible to ALL qualified children, regardless of their family income.

  67. This couple's insight into the ineffectiveness of the huge sums spent on outside scholarships is right on the mark. And it may be that insight that allows their program to operate on a much greater scale. It is also an insight with relevance to other forms of the country's spending on education, like generally ineffective investments in foreign-language study.

  68. I am dismayed by the preponderance of negative comments here. I recently had the privilege to write a recommendation for a Quest Bridge scholar. He is a wonderful student from a low income family and he now attends a fine university. He is also from a minority group that has been discriminated against in this nation for hundreds of years. Good for him. Yes, I am white and middle class, and yes, my children attended the State University. We will all be fine.

  69. Well said Pete!

  70. That's mighty white of you, and I really mean that in the kindest sense. Your sacrifices will make us all richer. Thank you.

  71. There is no argument that the middle class has been hammered with ridiculous tuition requirements in a world where their paychecks by less and less. But that is not the fault of the poor. Blame the GOP for lowered taxes for the wealthy (because they work so much harder, and because that money will trickle down to the rest of us, so goes their logic), blame state governments for balancing their budgets on the backs of students, and blame private colleges who somehow think they need to offer cruise-ship like experiences to students, thereby jacking up tuition/boarding expenses. The poor had no say in this.

  72. The disgruntled middle, upper-middle, and upper-class commenters here, who feel put out by efforts to help the poor, should be lobbying the government for free higher education for all. You seem to think it is your right -- so why not take political action? Fighting over a shrinking pie only divides us.

  73. RDeanB: Free education for all is fine as long as we institute a National Entrance Exam (like Japan, India and China) to go along with it so we can guarantee that only the best students get into the best schools. No more Legacy, Athletic or Affirmative Action acceptances of less qualified applicants.
    And if over time the top schools become primarily Asian and White at least the process will have been fair and unbiased with subjective criteria such as economic hardship or cultural factors no longer relevant.

  74. It is not only that poor and lazy people get free money, they also have preferred admissions because they are not as smart as the other kids.

  75. If you had taken even a cursory look at the QuestBridge application, you would not make such an ignorant statement. So who, exactly, is lazy here?

  76. Well, we paid for our child's education, so we might as well pay for everyone else's, too. Right? We do not want to be seen as being against the poor, but one has the strangest feeling that everyone's shoulder is not up against the wheel with the same force or purpose. Exactly why, we should make up for the deficit seems unclear. Why don't all schools cost the same and why doesn't everyone qualify for the same amount of money? Hey, it's a village. Each according to their needs. Each according to their ability. Rather than each according to their parent's ability and each according to some one else's parent's ability. It all seems rather strange in retrospect. We did our best. No one gave us anything. We ate on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

  77. But this has nothing to do with you paying for anyone else's education. This program is funded by the universities themselves, who see value in bringing these students to their campuses.

  78. Not long ago I read {part of} a transcription of an essay on "white male privilege." The author, a Jewish female professor at an elite college, would no doubt argue that white males derive a benefit merely by being white males, and it is white males who should understand most of all for "affirmative action" type programs - by which is meant the admission of less-qualified African American and Latino students.

    But one subsection of whites, specifically Jewish students, are only about 3% of the population but as much as 20% or more of the population at schools such as Brown and Columbia.

    So what about Jewish privilege?

    If a group that is 3% is routinely very subtantially over-represented at elite schools, doesn't that mean a lack of diversity requiring "caps" to be fair? If "white males" are a certain percentage of the population, why i google, inc. lamenting a staff that is roughly the same percentage?

    If a college is slightly more white and male than the national average, am I to, in all intellectual honesty, view this as egregious, while never daring to broach the topic of massive over-representation of an ethno-religious minority that is on the whole probably the wealthiest and most powerful identity group?

    The truth is, as to qualified students and admission to elite colleges, a fair analysis would conclude that who is being *under-represented* are non-Jewish whites, and Asians.

  79. In response to "Mike D", you comment is way off the mark. If you were to read the book "The Chosen" by Jerome Karabel, which deals with admissions at the Ivy League schools, you would find that Jews were systematically excluded from admission for many decades. Further, the Jewish advantage stems from a history of valuing scholarship, study and attainment of positions in society which are recognized accomplishments, such as doctor or lawyer. In other words, Jews not only have a tradition of scholarly study that goes back to ancient times, but also seek to elevate themselves through accomplishment that is generally recognized socially. (This, of course, is seen by many as a reaction to antisemitism.)

    The fact that Jews were excluded from many elite schools historically would give support to the idea that overrepresentation afterward would represent a means of making up for lost time. (That is not my position, however.) Any ethic or religious group that successfully puts scholarship and learning as a central tenet of its belief system will have an advantage in college admissions.

    If you want to look for unfair advantage, consider legacy admissions, which essentially is an affirmative action program for well off white kids. This is basically an advantage of birth, something we have said we are against in a democratic society.


  80. Asian students are hardly under-represented at elite colleges.

  81. There once was a Jewish cap on elite schools. There similar attempts to limit Asian enrollment. And it is the left that is doing it. It is possible that there is still an attempt to curb Jewish enrollment too but it is a bit harder to decipher who is Jewish these days since many Jews are secular. I find it hard to believe that Jews have so much power on college campuses though since anti-Jewish hate speech and hate groups (such as Nation of Islam) are allowed free reign but similar speech towards blacks, Muslims and illegal immigrants are quickly curtailed. There seem to be a lot of Jewish leftist activists who are obsessive about "diversity" and are insensitive that their push for affirmative action for blacks and Hispanics comes at the expense of Asians. These same people hit the roof when someone like Pat Buchanan noticed Jews are vastly overrepresented while some "white cultures" and religions are denied a seat at the table despite making up a good percentage of this countries population. I say this as a Jewish person too. I do not think this hypocrisy helps the getting along process at all.

  82. This sounds like a terrific program, as far as it goes. It ignores the larger problem, however: why do we have a system of "elite" education in the first place? Why do we have a system where one graduate is labeled "outstanding" and the graduate of another, lesser school is labeled, automatically, "okay"?

    As long as we have a system that was modeled on its ability to help the sons and daughters of the wealthy maintain their position, economically and socially, then we will have one that grinds out inequality, year after year, generation after generation. Most lower income students still must accept 2nd or 3rd class status.

    Another point: this program points out the necessity of specific preparation for admission to the big name schools, rather than just, you know, intelligence, hard work and the ability to think and express thought and process information. When the prep schools dominated admission to the Ivies, they taught to the SAT and carefully made certain their students could produce the results desired at those schools. This is now repackaged for poor kids.

    At least 1/3 to 1/2 of the admissions at the top schools should be by lottery. Students would have been judged on a prior basis to be qualified to attend. They could enter the lottery of several top ranked schools while applying to others. That process would SHOCK the established, east coast powers who don't ever want to give up their privileged position. A revolution, however, is needed.


  83. These are (worthwhile) bandaids on a system that stinks! Until we value the right to a good education as more than a commodity and believe it at least should rank with the right to bear arms, America will continue its inexorable decline. Most developed nations have a more accessible education system, a more accessible health care system, a better social network. However, we have more guns, more bombs, more planes and a bigger military budget. It's all a question of priorities!

  84. I thought the insights in this article were great, until the statement that Rotary and other scholarships are "ineffectual" because they frequently go to students who would graduate from college regardless. That "regardless" still takes a lot of work and money. In my middle-class case, that "regardless" (without a scholarship) meant 6 academic years to get an engineering degree, including many school weeks where I worked so many night and weekend hours I earned overtime. My "regardless" came very close to dropping out.

    I support the goal of helping all top students getting the best education possible. Feel free to focus only on 'low income' students if you want, but when you exclude others as less deserving, well, good luck with that attitude.

    By the way, where exactly is the magic money tree that will pay for my three middle class children's college education?

  85. I viewed the comment as when an award comes at the end of the senior year, the student already accepted a college admission and already has their financial package. Those scholarships aren't an incentive to apply like the QuestBridge program. I'll even go a little further to say how ineffective local scholarships are as my younger son had his financial aid cut by our state university for every dollar he received at his senior banquet.

  86. I am almost overwhelmed by the negative comments.

    It truly surprised me.

    Can we not allow poor kids to find a way out of their rut? Or do we need to push ourselves up by standing on their heads? Can we not celebrate the joy of seeing another child do well, without flinging sour grapes at them?

    It's a joy to see others work hard and do well . . . isn't it?

    Am I crazy?

  87. Many privileged people are happy allowing their children to get educated with other privileged children knowing that friendships and relationships rule the day rather than actual skill, knowledge and ability. For these folks, heaven forbid they have to compete with truly gifted and bright students or even think at that level. Someone who is intelligent and who pulled themselves up from the bootstraps rather than gaining privilege through hierarchical and birthright succession? Quelle horror!

  88. What an outstanding program! We first heard about it at Andover's summer program. They are doing an amazing job.There have been a lot of subtly racist comments in response to this story from disgruntled privileged parents who apparently believe their kids are more deserving than the minority students accepted by the Ivies. That is extremely divisive. You have no problem with the white legacy students who get in but only the minorities whom you seem to think are non deserving? They took the AP courses, got the credit for doing well, graduated 1st or second in their h.s. classes, etc., but all you and bigots like you see is their skin color and not their superb academic achievements. I happen to be the parent of one of those high achieving students of color.

  89. Education will move some up the ladder in terms of cash (all those hopeful econ majors - Lord help us!!) and others not.

    WHERE ARE THE JOBS? and where are they going to be?) Downsize government, and more go away. Googletruck the trucking industry -- interesting... !!

    BTW the educated are sometimes scorned for certain jobs -- was it Bridgeport Ct. that did not want to hire intelligent policemen -- because they would be bored. (People prob. do not want Stanford grads doing housework, altho my various classmates from Barnard graduated to secretarial jobs.) My friends with MFAs in Film are working as salesgirls.

    BTW education is big business and those loans can never be bankrupted away. (If you really want to learn, there is Coursera, EdX, and the other one.... If I were an employer I would want to see you certificates from those courses, many of which are extraordinary.)

  90. Again, many if not all of the schools working with Questbridge do not require students to take out loans. Students receive grant aid. Many of those commenting on this story don't seem to know much about QuestBridge.

  91. Nor apparently, do they read and actually comprehend. SMH

  92. Most of the people this program assists are black and Hispanic despite there being more whites that are poor than either group. There are also plenty of poor Asians who excel in academics and desperately need assistance but programs like this seem to intentionally avoid them. This is racial affirmative action by another name with a few token whites thrown in.

  93. Not according to the pie chart.

  94. Again, nonsense. Educate yourself about the program before you slam it.

  95. Another snap judgement based on nothingness-reminds me of a Faux News viewer--quite surprised you're trolling the NYT. Poor does not equal traditionally underrepresented minorities (believe it or not some have parents who can actually pay their way through to grad school or haven't you heard?) Poverty represents the financial and economic status of any racial or ethnic group at any time which includes majority members in every state, particularly South Dakota, North Dakota, West Virginia, etc. Apparently, you need to educate yourself further.

  96. How come no one ever asks "why is college so expensive" or "why haven't schools opened up more spots over the years"?

  97. What is the obsession of the New York Times with "elite schools"? Fifty years ago I was a National Merit scholar, visited my local "elite school," saw it revolved around fraternities and sororities, went elsewhere, and never regretted it.

  98. I'm not from the US, but from what I read here and another sources it seems like your life success or detriment depends on wheter you go to an 'Elite College' or not. Such a crucial decision at a such an early age on the other hand aren't these institutions highly overrated?

  99. I was fortunate to attend a prep school where 100% of the students were accepted into 4-year colleges. We also had our choice of three guidance counselors for about 120 seniors. Would the low income students that benefit from QuestBridge otherwise have even one adult in their lives, in or out of school, to fill this important role? If these talented students' potential isn't realized, the whole country suffers.

  100. Elite schools are not key to success (financially or otherwise). Don't get me wrong, it will get your foot in the door or rather open doors for you. But it will not guarantee success! Investments should be more focus on public universities, since more students attend those than Ivy League schools. Elite college or not, ambitious and clever kids will find ways to make it (succeed)!

  101. Any why is there not room for both? As the mother of two Ivy League graduates who received generous financial aid, I am most grateful their choices were not limited to even the best state schools. Questbridge should be applauded.

  102. That foot in the door is often crucial to success, and connections made with other soon to be successful people while a student can do more than just get the foot in the door. As for public universities, amen, but in more and more states legislatures and taxpayers are refusing to pay the higher costs that quality public education demands. Thus more selective public schools like Berkeley, Virginia and Michigan are forced more and more to act like private schools and see their tuitions rise accordingly, while others are struggling to maintain academic quality, increasing class sizes and seeking to find low cost solutions to some of their difficulties by online education.

  103. My daughter just graduated from an Ivy League school and I am 100% in favor of efforts to provide merit scholarships to low-income students. We are middle-class and thus had to pay a HUGE amount of $$ for her college education (and my son's) but we don't mind having to pay more to subsidize low-income students.

    What I did think was ridiculous was:

    1) The large amount of ultra-rich international students at her school. I guess they're subsidizing the scholarship students because they're paying full-freight but some of these kids were the worst kind of spoiled brats & not one of them seemed to have an altruistic career goal. If we're going to give scarce Ivy League spots to int'l students, shouldn't they at least be people who'll do good for their countries and not just go work for int'l finance companies?

    2) The kids who got in because they're athletes: It is ridiculous for the Ivy League schools to choose students based up their lacrosse, baseball, football, or volleyball skills. It's a hopeless cause to try to change this but it's still stupid.

    So I say give more scholarships to poor American kids: They'll help counter-balance the large amount of uber-rich American & Int'l kids and jocks at these schools.

  104. I was a poor American kid from a horrible high school who was lucky enough to attend Princeton. We had almost no international kids. 60% of my class was rich kids from US prep schools. That's all changed.
    I now recruit actively for Princeton, which does have international kids, and I know for a fact that they are NOT all rich kids; many of them from Brazil where I live receive full rides.
    I don't disagree with more scholarships to poor American kids, but please don't tar the internationals as all spoilt rich kids, because they're not.

  105. Doctor turned medical investor. Entrepreneur. Explains a lot. "The Best and Brightest" straight outta Wall Street. The gap between rich and poor is becoming much easier to leap, with the disappearance of the middle class. Brought to you by Government Sachs Et Al. In cooperation with QuestBridge, a wholly owned subsidiary of the 1%.

  106. Nonsense. These are the good guys, and they extend the opportunity to students who would otherwise never even consider applying to an elite school. Give credit where credit is due.

  107. Interesting but where's the story about the alliance headed by ASU Michael Crow that impacts far more students...
    "Rich kids have a better chance of getting college degrees," ASU President Michael Crow said. "We're going to even out that playing field so family income is no longer a predictor of college success. We're going to innovate together."
    11 universities involved in alliance
    Arizona State University, Ohio State University, Georgia State University, University of California-Riverside, Iowa State University, Purdue University, University of Central Florida, Michigan State University, University of Kansas, Oregon State University and University of Texas- Austin

  108. most of these are universities that practice the "one and done" athletic "scholarships" which are the scourge of college athletics. kids who cannot possibly benefit from a college education are forced to spend one year there, getting the required C+ average so they can go out and play professional sports for money. Money they should have been able to earn at least a year prior.
    Universities that are better known for their athletes than their scholars are not a model for anyone at all.

  109. Excellent point. I guess these schools are not and will never be noticed by the NYTimes because they are not "elite", i.e. private liberal arts school in the East Coast.

  110. Four years of scholarship money is required to keep good students in school. My friend at Georgetown University, a talented, very smart young woman, dropped out halfway through her sophomore year when her initial scholarship money dried up. QuestBridge has got it right and I hope it continues.

  111. I find it interesting that Arianna chose to attend UVA over the myriad of very good state schools in her own state (i.e. Berkeley, UCSD, UCLA), for a number of reasons.

    How can she afford to go home/visit her family? Why make UVA pay for a more expensive out of state student? What did UVA offer that she couldn't get in California? Additionally, Charlottesville is not cheap to live in. How do the QuestBridge students pay for living expenses?

  112. She no doubt received a scholarship that made attending UVA less expensive than any of the UC's, whose ability to offer full-pay scholarships is extremely limited. And financial aid at elite schools often includes travel allowances to enable students to visit home.

  113. Scholarship kids often do not go home for the holidays, but stay in the dorms. Or, when the dorm closes, they borrow another student's apartment for that time--and keep working. Or they find another way. It's just one more way they have to be scrappy. At least, that's how this former scholarship student did it.

  114. Maybe because she saw the campus, thought "oh, wow, this is beautiful" in a way that meant something to her, rather than the arid california beauty. that's why I went to Princeton after living in Northern Indiana: it had the most beautiful campus I had visited between Cambridge and DC. I loved it, still do.

  115. What is not mentioned is that minority kids do not do as well as their white peers at elite colleges even with massive grade inflation for all races. Competition is part of a positive college experience and most of these kids would compete and win at their local city colleges and state universities and -god forbid- historically black schools which do after all bare a special responsibility of conveying the cultural heritage of these kids.

    As for laptops as incentives this is just a categorical fallacy. Just the opposite of what this article claims is true and has been repeatedly demonstrated. Students will do no better when they are paid or paid off to do what is already in their own best interest. My own daughters "privileged" status is the result of three generations of sacrifice: the first becoming sold bread winner for his fours siblings at age sixteen married at fifty, the second ten years active and reserve military and forty years in a factory married at forty I was thirty two my wife and I were both well employed college grads. It's not privilege vis a vee another group it status that took in aggregate a hundred and fifty years for one family to earn.

    I wish these kids all the best but don't tell me they shouldn't have to pay for the bad decesions of their parents cause in a world of finite opportunities if they don't mine won't get the benefits or my good ones.

  116. The article does not cite race at all. Or minority. It's low income - I assume race blind. Read the article.
    You speak in generalities with "categorical fallacy" and "has been repeatedly demonstrated." Any evidence
    If you are educated, it clearly was not in Latin, vis a vis your use of terms you can't spell.
    Your children are not entitled to an Ivy League education. You seem petty for disparaging a non-profit designed to push low-income kids with limited opportunity to be able to move up the ladder of social mobility. Education has historically been that route. God bless Questbridge for doing some small part to make it again.

  117. What is not mentioned is that minority kids do not do as well as their white peers at elite colleges even with massive grade inflation for all races.

    Statistical proof of the above ststement? Also would love to know how you define minority as the mathematics, engineering and physics departments across the US would defy this 'argument."

  118. The students who receive scholarships through QuestBridge are outstanding young people who are working to change their lives just like your family has, through sacrifice, hard work and education.
    The admission standards for these students is not lower. They have strong SAT scores, solid grades and significant involvement in leadership activities both at home and in their communities. When they beat out other students for admission, it's because they have more to offer the university community in terms of passion, life experiences and raw intellect.

    QuestBridge gives students an advantage by making them aware that they have the qualifications to attend top schools and by lowering barriers to application such as high fees and complicated financial aid processes, much a like a parent or college counselor would do for middle and upper class applicants.

    Your comment that these student do not do as well in top universities seems unfounded. In fact, most QuestBridge students graduate from a four year college and many go on to graduate school, as evidenced in this article. This isn't surprising given the kind of grit and intelligence it takes many of them to compete for admission when coming from broken school systems or families that do not value education.

  119. Part of the hostility here is driven by the perception—sadly enabled by the New York Times, US News and World Report and myriad wanna-be rankings—that there are only a handful of colleges and universities worth attending. The "Harvard or Bust" mentality causes far too many students and their families to overlook excellent, and far more affordable, alternatives. In fact, many of the institutions on top of the USNWR rankings are public colleges and universities.

    Why is the media so hysterically focused on Ivy Plus? How about an ongoing series of profiles of public schools in Education, for a change? Perhaps the families that resent poor kids for getting free education at the elites while theirs go to state schools would relax a little if they weren't made to feel that public colleges are a pathetic consolation prize in the Great Application Race.

  120. Lots of good schools but only a few have the cachet that can make life easier.

  121. Clothes, people, real estate, education, and almost all commodities ago in and out of fashion for mysterious and often irrational reasons. Oprah Winfrey caused a stink because a shop girl in Zurich refused to show her a $38,000 Tom Ford Jennifer bag — named for Jennifer Aniston, a fan of the American designer handbag. Could it be that an education at an elite college is elite, precisely because of the price they charge is out of reach for all but the elite? Could a Stanford or Harvard degree and a designer handbag be made form the same emotional material?

  122. The article misunderstands the nature of an elite school. Elite schools are “elite" because the hoi polloi are barred from entry mainly by exorbitant prices and legacy admission policies. If the snooty schools let the common folk in, the schools loose their elite status. As General Motors will secretly admit, a Cadillac car and a Chevrolet car cost about the same to make, but the Cadillac brand derives its’ allure by being too expensive for the masses to afford. The perceived superiority of an education at an elite school is just a marketing gimmick. Wh should just send twice as many of the good students from ordinary socioeconomic backgrounds to Cal State Fresno or Oklahoma Cow College and stop subsidizing the aristocratic diploma mills. The smart bright kids will still outperform the dullard children of the privileged, even if the poor kids have to scrape the barnyard dirt off of their shoes first.

  123. Defensive much? One great thing about opinions is they don't have to be based upon any facts or personal knowledge.

  124. I was hoi polloi and I attended an elite Ivy league school precisely because it had the money my family didn't have. Some of it was loans. Today, my alma mater does only grants, no loans, so you graduate free of debt. That's right, free of debt. From Princeton. Or Harvard. Or Yale. Or other "elite" colleges.
    And if you attend one of these places, you will probably learn that "hoi polloi" means "the common people" and that putting "the" before "hoi polloi" is pleonasm. Look it up.

  125. I've been involved in education all my adult life, although my area is international education. QuestBridge looks like a wonderful program for the poor to get an elite education.
    I do however, worry about the middle class in this country. I was lucky. My grandfather had some money and he paid for my undergraduate education at William and Mary, and the fees were small compared to what students have to pay today. For graduate school, I took out a New York State loan at 3% interest and paid for myself. Today, kids who take out loans pay enormous interest rates that leave them in debt for decades. We can't have that. There has to be a way for the middle class to afford college-- All colleges. Mr. Romney's cavalier comments to the effect that the kids should look for a cheaper school are unacceptable.

  126. Mr. Romney's comment is right on the money. People should go to the college they can afford, period. That's what millions of middle class families are doing, and those who have the IQ and drive to succeed will succeed regardless of which college they went to, including community colleges.

  127. I applaud QuestBridge for its work in helping lower income students expand their horizons and realize dreams. One should also not forget the service the organization does to the elite schools it coordinates with. It increases class diversity, and no doubt ethnic diversity as well, at these schools by enabling them to admit students from diverse backgrounds with top academic qualifications. The addition of diverse perspectives and backgrounds is likely to enhance the education of students from more privileged backgrounds who before then may never have gotten to know someone who relied on food stamps for nourishment or was raised by a struggling single parent.
    Moreover, lest one think that it is those in the middle who suffer, Many if not most students from families with middle class wealth and incomes also find that their educations at elite schools are to some extent subsidized by the school,and the wealthier the school the more likely they are to be subsidized. (Check out the proportion of students at schools like Harvard or Williams who receive financial assistance.)

  128. Some of these elite students definitely need to get out of their bubble. Although we are far from poor, we are not fabulously wealthy and one of my kids attended one of those colleges where a lot of other students are very wealthy. It was so common for these students to "borrow" money and never pay it back, and act baffled if they are asked for it back. We finally figured that for them, money is meaningless, there is always more where that came from, for everyone, and so why would it need to be paid back?

  129. Why do I feel that this is another attempt to institute racial quotas? And funnel our taxpayer dollars into specific ethnic and racial groups? Very few people mention the thousands of poor Asian students who work hard, get into good schools and succeed. And the thousands of poor Jewish students who do the same. It seems that "economically disadvantaged" is becoming another code word for the now-debinked notion of "affirmative action", which was a code word for racial quotas.

  130. Poor Asian students are just qualified for QuestBridge as poor Black students. Regardless of their race, QuestBridge finalists are chosen for their low-income status.

  131. In America, discussion of IQ is strictly verboten. So we use IQ surrogates like a diploma from a selective college or university. Once admitted , the student benefits as much from interacting with his/her intelligent and creative classmates as from lectures of Nobel Laureates. These students leave college with the same IQ that they had upon admission. No IQ value added in spite of the $250,000 tuition outlay. While attending these schools they are likely to find friends for life and possibly a mate for life .During these 4 years, their best teachers may, as W B Yeats said, light their fires rather than attempt to fill their
    pails. These graduates frequently settle in Super Zip code areas where homes are expensive and high real-estate taxes support great public schools that their children may choose to attend. Like their parents, these kids frequently gain admission to selective colleges. Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing...?

  132. Bravo, QuestBridge for this excellent initiative which will change many lives. As a child of privilege, I knew a college education was a certainty. Not so, clearly, for children of poverty whose futures are foreclosed or at the very least full of uncertainty. Knowing a four-year college education is a distinct possibility ia a great motivator. As well, the applications are accessible, not arcane, and the start of a life where these children feel welcome.

  133. I remember the day my son got the QuestBridge pamphlet in the mail like it was yesterday. It seemed too good to be real. I also remember the day he was notified that he was a finalist! The best day was when he opened the email to read that he was admitted into the 2009 freshman class at Rice University! He and QuestBridge accomplished something we couldn't do for him- a top notch education at a top-notch university for a top-notch, but working class student.

  134. Perhaps it is only fitting that the elitist NYT should be obsessed with elitist colleges. I say elitist because the NYT is cares mainly about very high cost colleges that only the rich can afford without aid rather than with academically elite colleges. I graduated high school in the '60s and became the first member of my family to go to college. (It was no big deal back then.) Indeed, my parents had not finished high school. But they expected me to go to college. I was accepted to UC-Berkeley, Columbia, and Occidental. I could not afford the private schools, so ended up going to Berkeley. Little did I know at the time it was academically the best of the bunch, and still is! Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, UWash and other public universities are academically superior to virtually all but a relatively few colleges NYT considers elite. Of course, they don't cost enough to qualify for NYT's idea of "elite."

  135. In America, discussion of IQ is strictly verboten. Instead we use IQ surrogates like a diploma from a selective college . Once admitted , the student benefits as much from interacting with his/her intelligent and creative classmates as from lectures of Nobel Laureates.They marry high IQ classmates , beget intelligent children who attend well funded public schools (thanks to school support being coupled to real estate taxes .