In a pilot program launching this fall, the University of Michigan will test a new approach to connecting with high-achieving, low-income students across the state — with the goal of enrolling more of them on the Ann Arbor campus.
The new approach involves developing a unique package of admissions information, including a step-by-step guide for applying to U-M, and vouchers providing free access to key portions of the application process.
For those students who apply and are admitted to U-M, the payoff is huge: A HAIL (High Achieving Involved Leader) scholarship that provides four years of free tuition and required fees — a $60,000 value. Students will likely be eligible for further financial aid to cover other costs such as housing and textbooks.
By removing the financial barriers to enroll at U-M, students will have access to an institution committed to ensuring their success. U-M’s Ann Arbor campus has a state’s-best 97-percent freshman retention rate and a 91-percent graduation rate.
The new materials will be offered to a cohort of high-achieving, low-income Michigan high school seniors in each of the next two years. Students will be selected for the HAIL initiative based on their financial need and early indications of their likelihood to be competitive in the admissions process. The students must apply and be admitted to receive the scholarship.
The university developed the pilot program in collaboration with Susan Dynarski, professor of education, public policy and economics, who studies inequality in education and the optimal design for college financial aid.
“There is lots of research indicating high-achieving, low-income students do not apply to selective colleges at the same rate as their higher-income peers,” said Kedra Ishop, associate vice president for enrollment management.
“Despite our best efforts, one of the reasons is a lack of information, especially about costs. So we decided to develop a new approach to sharing this important information, try it for two years and measure the outcome.”
Students who receive the information packet will be drawn from 259 public high schools throughout the state — urban, rural and suburban — that represent the diversity of Michigan. Students will be mailed a package of information and their parents or guardians will receive a separate letter detailing the outreach effort. High school principals and counselors at the participating schools also will be informed about the program.
Students will be asked to make an immediate connection to U-M by registering on a personalized website to obtain a free U-M t-shirt. That connection will allow the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to keep in touch throughout the normal admission process.
“We want these high-achieving students to know we look forward to assisting with their application submission and supporting them throughout the admissions and enrollment process,” said Erica Sanders, interim director of undergraduate admissions.
U-M’s commitment to access for economically disadvantaged students is not new, but the outreach is changing.
“Our financial aid package for low-income students is the best among all colleges and universities in the state, usually covering the full cost of tuition at our Ann Arbor campus,” said Pam Fowler, director of financial aid. “HAIL is an important new way to get the attention of families and make them aware of what is available to them at Michigan.”