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USACollegeChat Podcast

Mar 24, 2016

Our show notes are usually a close rendition of what Marie and I talk about in our episodes. These show notes are different. They are a heartfelt request for you to listen to this episode from start to finish. You won’t hear another one like it.

Today, we are pleased to have Harold Levy, straight-talking executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and former chancellor of the New York City Public Schools, as our special guest. The Foundation recently co-authored, with The Century Foundation, a thought-provoking report entitled True Merit: Ensuring Our Brightest Students Have Access to Our Best Colleges and Universities.

Marie and I talked about the report some weeks ago in Episode 59, and some of the statistics that the report presented and that we discussed in that episode are, frankly, hard to forget. Here are a few: 

  • At the most competitive colleges, only 3 percent of students come from families with incomes in the bottom 25 percent of the income distribution, but 72 percent of students come from families with incomes in the top 25 percent of the income distribution.
  • Only 23 percent of high-achieving, low-income students apply to a selective school, but 48 percent of high-achieving, high-income students do so.
  • High-achieving students from the wealthiest families were three times as likely to enroll in a highly selective college as high-achieving students from the poorest families (24 percent compared to 8 percent).
  • 49 percent of corporate industry leaders and 50 percent of government leaders graduated from the same 12 selective colleges and universities.

In today’s episode, Harold weighs in on what these statistics and others like them mean for our nation as low-income, smart kids fail to apply and enroll in to the kinds of selective colleges they are intellectually equipped to attend.

Harold also gives us an insider’s look at what was one of the scariest parts of the report for me—the section on the college admissions process. The report’s authors were brutally frank about that, and Harold is as well as he takes us inside the admissions game. It’s a trip you won’t want to miss.

Please join us to hear about all this and more:

  • The inadequacy of current college counseling in high schools and what the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and others are doing about it
  • The generous scholarships offered by the Foundation to high-achieving, low-income students: to eighth graders, for study and enrichment during high school; to high school graduates, for their undergraduate college years; and to community college transfers, for their final years at four-year colleges
  • A critical review of a new report just out from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project, Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions (Marie and I recently tackled this report in Episodes 61 and 62.)
  • Thoughts about what is happening to average-achieving, low-income high school students in the college race

You won’t hear a foundation president or a big city school chancellor talk to you like this again any time soon. Really. You should listen.

Learn more about these organizations mentioned in this episode…

  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need
    • The Young Scholars Program for students entering eighth grade in the fall is currently accepting applications through April 14, 2016. 
  • Big Future, a college planning site brought to you by The College Board 
  • College Advising Corps, placing well-trained, recent college graduates as full-time college advisors in high schools
  • College Greenlight, connecting first generation and underrepresented students to caring colleges, generous scholarships, and life-changing counselors and mentors
  • CollegePoint, one-on-one college advising support for low- and moderate-income families
  • College Results Online, an interactive, user-friendly web tool providing information about college graduation rates
  • Pell Abacus, a short cut to financial aid for students receiving free or reduced lunch
  • ScholarCHIPS, for children of incarcerated parents

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

  • Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at
  • Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast
  • Emailing us at to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately

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