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Authors: LaMontagne, Elizabeth
Advisors: Scovronick, Nathan
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: Academic undermatch occurs when students choose post-secondary options that are less selective than those for which they are qualified. It is a phenomenon that affects approximately 40 percent of students in the United States and is particularly prevalent in rural, low-­income communities. Academic undermatch is caused by a lack of information regarding college and the associated application process. It has been shown to lower graduation rates and, for those who still graduate, increase time to graduation. Reducing academic undermatch is a feasible and important step toward increasing educational equity. This paper sought to identify a strong mechanism to address academic undermatch in rural America. Existing interventions against academic undermatch as well as major college access programs were reviewed in order to identify which program might have the most potential to address academic undermatch in rural areas. Talent Search, a federal college access program, was found to have the most potential to address rural academic undermatch. It already serves a large number of rural, high-­achieving students, has a grant-­based structure with shifting invitational priorities that provide a simple channel through which to include academic undermatch, and a strong history of success. It was unclear, however, whether its success was equal in the rural and non­‐rural areas it served. In order to determine whether its impact was constant in all of the areas it served, this paper performed the first analysis of Talent Search’s structure, funding, and performance among rural and non‐rural areas. This paper found that there was no significant difference in structure, funding, and performance among rural and non­‐rural programs. It is recommended that Talent Search include an intervention against undermatch as one of its invitational priorities, allowing a test phase to occur. Talent Search should also require data regarding participant academic credentials and the specific colleges students attend in order to analyze the extent of academic undermatch in programs that included undermatch as a priority compared those that did not. Addressing academic undermatch in rural areas could be a strong step toward reducing the inequality of educational outcomes.
Extent: 84 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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