Now There’s “Undermatching”

by Jane S. Shaw

One of the latest issues in college accessibility is “undermatching.” Based initially on an interesting study by Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery, “undermatching” means that many high-achieving low-income students attend colleges that are less selective than they could get into. They go to “lesser” schools.

Usually these students live in small, rural districts that don’t have top-flight high schools and thus are ignored by recruiters from the top colleges.

This study has sparked a lot of attention, partly because favoring low-income students (“class-based affirmative action”) is being touted as an alternative to race-based admissions, which tend to be illegal. Ironically, however, truly correcting undermatches would not add much to racial diversity because most of the undermatched students are white.

So now George Leef asks the question, is undermatching a bad thing?  Citing a book about women who had only limited academic success at Indiana University, he observes:

Lots of students who chose the more prestigious flagship Indiana University would have been better off by “undermatching” themselves into a small, regional school in the first place. At those institutions, they would have had actual professors teaching their courses rather than TAs, and they’d have been more likely to get good academic counseling.

Sometimes these accessibility issues are overwrought, like many things in academia.