While the worthy debate over affirmative action and quotas in college admissions attempts to reconcile philosophical and political objectives, it does not completely address how to make higher education accessible to many minority students. The trend for too many college recruiters has been to buy SAT mailing lists, utilize website marketing, and narrow the focus for prospective students to select high schools. Unfortunately this serves to discourage admission of qualified inner city youth who may not be reached in any of those mediums. As colleges continue to shape the middle class, it is imperative that those in lower economic status be given equal opportunity. Colleges should actively recruit inner city youth. By developing close relationships with applicants, colleges can fulfill the dual objective of a more diverse student body and making higher education accessible to qualified members of a previously underserved population.
Some inner city high school guidance counselors have told me that too many of their students don’t set their sights high enough and overtures from colleges might encourage more of them to apply to college. Those students could be successful in college, but their families often don’t consider higher education an option because their children need to be wage-earners after high school. As a result, they don’t even take the SAT’s! It’s important that colleges and universities make an effort to reach those capable students. They can do that by visiting community centers and high schools that are not traditionally thought of as fertile ground for college recruitment. At those presentations, admissions reps should be prepared to become educators. They can teach families about options and opportunities in higher education financing and explain the realistic benefits and risks of loan programs.
In this competitive era, it is also essential that colleges not only design elements of their curricula and programs so they lead to realistic careers, but they must support practical education with aggressive job advice and development. Parents of prospective students will be more willing to support the notion of higher education if they believe it will mean broader employment opportunities and greater chance for financial stability and future success. Too many minority families think that the phrase, “To get a good job, get a good education,” is a cliché meant for someone else. Experience has shown that if we meet prospective minority students on their own turf and engage their families in the process of admission, then freshman classes will be more ethnically diverse and higher education will begin to be more accessible to all.