“Some of the things that they do is they try to get more out-of-state students who pay a higher amount and also tend to come from wealthier families, or they go out and try to get more international students, who also tend to be wealthier,” he said.
A more positive finding from the report showed low-income students who are admitted to elite universities tend to do as well as their wealthier peers when provided with the same resources, Burd said.
“I think that when you’re looking at the low-income students who make it into these really good schools, you’re kind of looking at the cream of the crop,” he said.
Burd said UNC does not have a large number of low-income students, but uses financial aid to decrease the burden on students in general — rather than focus on recruiting wealthy students.
“They still use financial aid as a way to reduce financial need," he said. "They’re not huge players in the heritage arms race. In our study, we did see a little bit of reduction in accessibility (at UNC) but not a huge amount. They sort of fit the pattern but at a very, very low end.”
Kate Luck, a spokesperson for UNC, said the University has many programs for low-income students, including the UNC branch of the College Advising Corps. CAC’s Stanford University evaluation team found students associated with the organization were 30 percent more likely to apply to a university and 18 percent more likely to apply to three or more institutions.
Thurston Domina, a professor in the UNC School of Education, said he thinks a lot of the problem has to do with lack of capacity.
"We don’t have the seats in our universities to provide quality education to that many students, so we lost them along the way,” he said. “The people we lose disproportionately are poor students.”
Domina also said that while there are a lot of good programs out there for prospective and admitted students, mitigating this issue is crucial.
“Education is the tool that we have that is politically palatable to create social mobility so that we don’t have entrenched classes. That’s crucial to the way that we think about ourselves and it’s crucial to the maintenance of a democracy,” he said. “From where I sit, there’s nothing more important.”