A college program for disadvantaged teens could shake up elite admissions (subscription)

By: | February 19, 2021

Through an initiative started by a New York-based nonprofit, the National Education Equity Lab, hundreds of students are virtually rattling the gates of some of the nation’s most elite colleges by excelling in their credit-bearing courses before they leave high school.

The Equity Lab enrolled more than 300 11th and 12th graders from high-poverty high schools in 11 cities across the country in a Harvard course, “Poetry in America: The City From Whitman to Hip-Hop,” taught by a renowned professor, Elisa New. The high schoolers met the same rigorous standards of the course created for Harvard’s admitted students — they listened to lectures, took quizzes and completed essays, and they were graded by the same standards.

The goal of the pilot program was “reimagining and expanding the roles and responsibilities of universities,” and encouraging them to pursue star students from underprivileged backgrounds “with the same enthusiasm and success with which they identify top athletes,” said Leslie Cornfeld, the Equity Lab’s founder and chief executive.

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