Universities in the United States tend to conduct their off-campus recruiting visits at primarily white and affluent high schools, according to research published April 13.
Researchers from UCLA and the University of Arizona published their study, “The Off-Campus Recruiting Research Project,” on college recruiting and the demographics of the high schools recruiters choose to visit in The New York Times.
Ozan Jaquette, an assistant professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, and Karina Salazar, a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, compared data from college recruitment visits with data on the racial composition and income of the high schools both visited and not visited by recruiters to determine the demographics of the schools visited.
Jaquette said colleges and universities’ focus on recruiting at affluent, predominantly white high schools reflects how they have become more dependent on tuition revenue for their funding.
“(Dependency on tuition revenue) has always been the case for private institutions that don’t have state funding,” he said. “Now that states are decreasing funding of public universities, it’s true for public universities as well.”
A report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association published in March showed that, for the first time, most public universities in the United States depended primarily on tuition revenue to fund their higher education instead of state funding.
Salazar added decreasing state funding for public universities incentivizes those schools to increase enrollment for out-of-state students – who pay three to four times more than in-state students – to make up for the loss in funding.
Salazar said previous research tends to blame families and high schools of low-income students and students of color for their low admittance rates to certain colleges and universities. However, she said she and Jaquette wanted to focus their research on what higher education institutions are doing to attract students.
“There’s also a lot of discourse that looks at (which) students get into college and (which) students don’t,” she said. “We’re interested in focusing on understanding what universities are actually doing to increase the number of low-income students and students of color and understanding whether or not there’s actual commitment on the part of the universities.”
This research has implications for the students who are not being recruited, Jaquette said. For example, research from the University at Buffalo found that college visits to high schools impacted whether students, particularly first-generation students and students of color, applied and enrolled to those schools, Salazar said.
Jaquette added low-income students often continue to be a minority at public universities that are increasingly recruiting more affluent students.
“At public universities, you’ve got increasingly a very affluent student body,” Jaquette said. “Students that are low-income will often feel somewhat out of place because (a public universities is) not a place that values social mobility like it used to.”
Jaquette said he thinks University of California schools appeared to do better at recruiting from in-state high schools than other public universities. However, he added it was too early in the data-collection process to make definitive statements about UC schools.
Gary Clark, the director of undergraduate admissions at UCLA, said in an email statement that UCLA admissions focuses its recruiting efforts on in-state students and students who have not decided whether they want to attend college, including first-generation students, low-income students and students from rural locations.
“Our first priority is to be present in communities right here in Los Angeles and throughout California,” he said. “It is especially important for us to reach students for whom going to college is not a foregone conclusion.”
Changing the high schools at which colleges recruit could increase diversity, Salazar said.
“This could very much be a tool for increasing the diversity of incoming classes into four-year universities,” she said.