VERVE: She Said
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VERVE: She Said

Study Shows Colleges Prioritize Wealthy White Applicants

In the wake of the college admissions scandal centering on celebrities like Felicity Huffman, one thing became clear. When it comes to college admittance, universities heavily favor wealthy white applicants. This has a devastating effect on minority students.

While discrimination remains illegal, the practices universities employ during recruiting activities prove de facto prejudicial, nevertheless. What can colleges do to attract more minority applicants and make their current student body feel more comfortable, regardless of their heritage or socioeconomic background?

Pathways to College / UTArlington Magazine by Yuta Onoda


How, exactly, do universities exercise bias in recruitment? One way is through their preference for out-of-state students. Most universities charge two different tuition rates — in-state rates and out-of-state rates. Those coming from out-of-state pay more. Obviously, recruiting these students helps institutions pad their coffers, but at the price of alienating lower-income, in-state students.

Another way universities exhibit discriminatory practices in recruitment is through focusing predominantly on schools in affluent urban areas. This ignores students who live in rural regions. Furthermore, when it comes to out-of-state recruitment, colleges are significantly less likely to visit schools with a high percentage of Latino, black and Native American students.

Colleges defend such practices, stating they must concentrate recruitment in areas where students likely possess the means to attend. However, this ignores the talents many otherwise disadvantaged students possess. It boggles the mind how many young Einsteins never achieve their dreams due to lack of knowledge about their higher education options.


When students feel stifled and trapped with nowhere to exercise their talent, it exacts a devastating toll on their self-esteem. Gifted students struggle with the frustration of boredom, ignored by teachers who devote their attention to misbehaving youth, not those desperate to excel.

When their talents go ignored by recruiters from higher education too, they reach a boiling point of despair. Many fall in with the wrong crowd and fall prey to substance abuse in a desperate attempt to get attention, even if it’s negative. Sadly, minority students and those living in poverty are most likely to slip into the addiction trap.

Proponents of Ayn Rand-style rugged individualism claim any student with a true desire to succeed can do so despite obstacles. This ignores the reality that the schools overlooked by college recruiters often lack adequate levels of funding, have high student-to-teacher ratios and don’t have essential supplies. It also ignores the psychological impact poverty has upon even the toughest-minded individuals.

Impoverished students face challenges that privileged, affluent teens cannot imagine. They often lack adequate levels of social support, have obvious financial struggles and may face dangerous living situations — either from substandard housing, violent neighborhoods or both. Obtaining a college degree represents a way to break the cycle of poverty, but when students do not know their options due to being ignored by recruiters, they often give up. Many believe the only way to obtain their goals is through an athletic scholarship, leaving those students lacking physical prowess suffering in silence.

This sets up a ripple effect that continues throughout life. Impoverished people suffer higher rates of obesity, smoking and chronic health ailments. Often, society bears the economic brunt, with state Medicaid funds picking up much of the tab for care. While society can place a dollar figure on health care costs, it’s impossible to quantify the loss to humankind in terms of the valuable contributions these students could make — if only given the chance.


To address the disparity between affluent white teens and poorer, more rural minority learners, colleges and universities should examine their practices. Simply placing an Equal Opportunity seal on enrollment documents and websites does little. Officials need to modify recruitment practices to include targeting schools in more remote locations, as well as urban schools with higher minority enrollment.

Additionally, universities benefit from stepping up in-state recruitment practices. While out-of-state students may bring in more tuition revenue, college officials can examine alternative methods to raise needed funds. For example, they can accelerate grant-seeking efforts to hire more staff and purchase needed supplies for science labs.

University officials can also investigate cost-saving measures that will enable more low-income students to attend. For example, online learning saves on overhead from in-person classroom costs. It also allows opens doors for students located in remote areas. Lodging costs make up more than half the total price tag of attending a public, four-year, on-campus school. Allowing students to learn remotely equates to increased enrollment among low-income learners.

Finally, college officials can take measures to ensure minority and low-income students feel comfortable and empowered to finish their degree. Starting at orientation, universities can connect students with financial aid and other resources required for success. Increasing advisory services to make sure all students get the courses they need in an appropriate timeframe will increase graduation rates. The cost of an extra semester to make up missed credits causes many low-income students to drop out.


A college degree helps students earn considerably more throughout a career than a high school diploma. By addressing discriminatory recruitment practices in higher education, we can ensure all students with the desire and drive can achieve their educational and professional goals.

Article by Kate Harveston

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