Smart Students From Low-Income Families Lock Down 4-Year, Tuition-Free Rides

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
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High school students attend a college and career convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Dec. 8, 2010, in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

There's an ascending player in the cluster of nonprofit organizations that help high-achieving students from low-income families get into the best colleges in the nation, and it's employing a simple strategy to entice qualified students: If you get into the school of your choice, you get to go for free, the New York Times reports.

And for all four years, might I add. When the founders of QuestBridge learned about some of the barriers that smart students from low-income backgrounds face, like the complicated, drawn-out financial-aid process—the idea that students often have to accept or decline a college offer before they find out if they've been awarded a scholarship; and even if they get a good financial-aid package the first year, they may be expected to cough up money for their remaining school years—QuestBridge decided to cut that out of the picture and lock down a four-year, tuition-free ride for some of the nation's brightest students.

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The program targets high school juniors and entices them to apply by dishing out immediate prizes, like laptops. "To win the prize, the junior would need to fill out a detailed application, which could become the basis for his or her college application. The idea draws on social science research, which has shown that people often respond better to tangible, short-term incentives (a free laptop) than to complicated, longer-term ones (a college degree, which will improve your life and which you can afford)," the Times reports.

Unlike many nonprofit organizations that leave it up to colleges to use financial-aid applications to estimate how much aid they'll have to offer students from low-income backgrounds, QuestBridge's 35 participating colleges simply fund the full, four years of tuition.

According to the Times, scholarship winners can "attend their first choice among any of the 35 participating colleges that admit them. Hundreds of scholarship finalists who don't win are admitted separately to the colleges, through a more typical admissions process, often with nearly full scholarships."

Some of the participating colleges include Brown University, Columbia, Dartmouth, Emory, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale.

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Read more at the New York Times.

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