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Oct 25, 2013 08:35 AM EDT

‘Harvard College Connection’ Initiative Aims To Reach Out To Low-Income Qualified Applicants

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Harvard University is employing a new method to reach out to low-income high-school students, encouraging them to apply to the college and other selective universities.

The 'Harvard College Connection' initiative, which begins this fall, will incorporate both web-based and traditional methods to inform high school students from low-income backgrounds about financial aid options at the college and other schools.

Actor Matt Damon, basketball player Jeremy Lin and other former and current students take you through a virtual tour of Harvard and its facilities in a special video.

Harvard and other selective universities have been long criticized for failing partially to recruit and admit academically talented students from modest economic backgrounds.

Usually low-income, qualified applicants do not realize the importance of financial aid. They are unaware of the fact that the aid can reduce their tuition costs significantly and sometimes, they can attend Harvard and other selective colleges for free.

According to a 2012 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, despite the fact that low-income high achievers are well qualified for admission at America's most selective colleges, majority of them do not apply to universities at all.

 "Too many of our nation's outstanding students, particularly those from modest economic backgrounds, fail to attend college or 'undermatch' themselves by not considering selective colleges where their chances of graduation would be better," Harvard's William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid said in an official statement.

The University officials said the new campaign is based on studies that have proven that reaching masses via text messages and Facebook can help persuade promising students to apply, attend and complete their education at Harvard or at other selective institutions. Most of them attend college within a few hundred miles of their homes.

 "To ensure that talented low-income students understand their opportunities, we need to meet them where they are," Fitzsimmons said. "To date, that has meant literally traveling to meet them in cities and towns across the nation. Going forward, we will meet them in person and online."

The university officials said that this initiative will not only boosts the percentage of low-income students in the campus but will also improve college graduation rates nationally for low-income students.

Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a professor who heads Cornell University's Higher Education Research Institute said that students who are aware of financial aid options are more likely to apply to top schools.

Ehrenberg said that wealthy schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton can afford to welcome additional low-income students. But most colleges "do not have the capacity to take many more low-income students without dramatically ramping up tuition," Boston Globe reports.

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