Ever since a 2012 study found that a majority of high-achieving, low-income high school seniors don't apply to a single competitive college, educators and policy makers have been debating what to do about "undermatching," as the issue has come to be called.
Caroline Hoxby and Sarah Turner ... explore the impact of a series of interventions offered through a program called Expanding College Opportunities, or its acronym ECO. Hoxby and Turner earlier found that these interventions encouraged more high ability, low-income students to apply to more-competitive colleges than they were doing otherwise. Their new finding is that these interventions carry through to actual enrollments. But using interviews with students about why they didn't apply to certain types of colleges where they had a good chance of being admitted and offered generous aid packages, they found gaps in information about liberal arts colleges in particular that could require further interventions or education campaigns.
Many of the students admitted to not knowing what a liberal arts college is, or their answers suggested that they had the wrong idea. Among the responses quoted in the paper:
“What is a private liberal arts college?”
“I don't know what this is.”
“I don't like learning useless things.”
“I am not liberal.”
And of students who had some sense in their minds (not necessarily correct) of what goes on at liberal arts colleges, many seemed to equate the institutions only with arts/humanities fields, unaware that math and science are very much part of most liberal arts colleges and that one can go to graduate or professional school from liberal arts colleges (and that many boast of very high acceptance rates at such institutions)