Match or Mismatch? Automatic Admissions and College Preferences of Low- and High-Income Students

Published online in:
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
December 4, 2018

Kalena Cortes, Texas A&M University
Jane Arnold Lincove, University of Maryland Baltimore County


We examine the role of information in college matching behavior of low- and high-income students, exploiting a state automatic admissions policy that provides some students with perfect a priority certainty of college admissions. We find that admissions certainty encourages college-ready low-income students to seek more rigorous universities. However, low-income students who are less college-ready are not influenced by admissions certainty and are more sensitive to college entrance exams scores. Most students also prefer campuses with students of similar demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Only highly-qualified low-income students choose institutions where they have fewer same-race and same-income peers. These results suggest that automatic admissions policies can reduce income-based inequities in college quality by encouraging low-income students who are highly qualified for college to seek out better-matched institutions. 

Read the news release - "Can Guaranteed Admissions Help Reduce College Undermatching?" - here. 

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