Photo Credit: Michael Kirby Smith/New York Times
Author: David Leonhardt
Published In: New York Times, September 16, 2014
Summary: QuestBridge helps low-income, college-ready teenagers around the country apply for college. If they get in, QuestBridge will help them figure out how to pay.
Why We’re Highlighting This Article: This is a great solutions journalism piece, with problem-solving at its core. The story follows QuestBridge, an organization that helps low-income students get into college by encouraging them to apply, “a national admissions office” of sorts, says Catharine Bond Hill, the president of Vassar. 11% of Amherst’s student body came through QuestBridge’s efforts, along with 9% of Pomona’s, and 4% of Stanford’s.
The piece defines the problem—the growing achievement gap between rich and poor students: “That gap is one of the biggest reasons that moving up the economic ladder is so hard in the United States today.”
But the bulk of it focuses on how QuestBridge is overcoming this problem and is finding so much success in placement, matching, and the winning of scholarships for these low-income students:
“College admissions officers attribute the organization’s success to the simplicity of its approach to students. It avoids mind-numbingly complex talk of financial-aid forms and formulas that scare away so many low-income families (and frustrate so many middle-income families, like my own when I was applying to college). QuestBridge instead gives students a simple message: If you get in, you can go.”
Leonhardt deep dives into the organization’s smart and effective problem-solving approach. Besides connecting students to scholarship money and notifying under-informed teenagers and their families that financial assistance is available to them, QuestBridge is also working with organizations and foundations that offer annually $3 billion in scholarships to move the process earlier in the school year. The organization sees these scholarships as a wasted opportunity: “it comes too late to affect whether and where students go to college,” Leonhardt writes. “Any private scholarship given at the end of senior year is intrinsically disconnected from the college application process,” Dr. McCullough said, “and it doesn’t have to be.”