Hello Maureen. Recently The College Board implemented a program, The Environmental Context Dashboard, which is meant for colleges to take into account the socio-economic background of prospective college students. Here is an excerpt from their recent letter to me:
"Through its history, the College Board has been focused on finding unseen talent. The Environmental Context Dashboard shines a light on students who have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less. It enables colleges to witness the strength of students in a huge swath of America who would otherwise be overlooked. [Not double spaced in the original.]
There is talent and potential waiting to be discovered in every community – the children of poor rural families, kids navigating the challenges of life in the inner city, and military dependents who face the daily difficulties of low income and frequent deployments as part of their family’s service to our country. No single test score should ever be examined without paying attention to this critical context."
I have written to them regarding the possibility of including ACEs in this effort and have cut and pasted a copy of my explanation for you:
"When I started college, I had no mother and was estranged from my father. This left me with no family and, therefore, no family income. I also had the disadvantage that through childhood my family was dysfunctional. The following discussion will show how extraordinary it is that I was able to earn a college degree.
Statistics from the time, 1975, show that only 35% of children from poor families, in the lower one-fourth of family income, even enrolled in college. Coincidentally, of the student population, about the same proportion (36%) are considered impoverished and housing-insecure (Goldrick-Rab, 2016). Recent studies (Dube, 2001) have shown that childhood trauma poses an even greater disadvantage to students than poverty. Of the 10 categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) considered in the study, I’d had 7 before age 18. This is true of only 0.9% of the general population (Dube, et al., 2001). You might think then that only about 1% of poor students also had such an unhappy childhood; however, data from the National Survey of Children’s Health suggests that children below the poverty line are twice as likely to experience three or more ACEs than those with higher family income (Radwin et al., 2013). In the interest in being conservative, we will assume this relationship is close for those like me, with seven ACEs. That being the case, 0.9% x 2 = 1.8% of impoverished students would also have endured a comparable level of childhood trauma. Of the student population then, 36% x 0.018 = .65% were at a comparable disadvantage – about 1 in 200 college students.
Everyone reacts to stress differently but in general, 13% of students without parental financial support graduate from college these days (Bowen et al, 2009). Of those with four or more ACEs only 7.43% graduate after six years of study (Metzler et al, 2017). Continuing in our conservatism, let’s assume this same proportion of graduates holds for students with 7 ACEs. Further, let’s conservatively assume that there is no synergy between the two stressors (poverty and trauma) and that 1.8% of my impoverished fellow graduates also had 7 ACEs (the same percentage as those with 4 ACEs in a hypothetical freshman class). Then a grand total of 36% (poor students) x 0.018 (poor students with 7 ACEs) x .0743 (graduation rate) = 0.0481% would complete their education. In other words, 1 out of about 2,079 students who started with the same disadvantages as myself graduated within six years of enrolling. Now, for the general population: Of the poorest 25% of families, 35% of their children started college x 0.0065 (started with comparable disadvantage) x 0.0743 (graduated) = 0.0117 % of college age Americans coming from a background comparable to mine graduated from college. That is, out of every 8580 18 to 24-year-olds in my cohort within the general population, one graduated. One of those was me."
I am very interested in any effort to recognize students that have overcome, or are trying to overcome, disadvantageous circumstances to make a better life for themselves. Please keep me informed about the progress of your research and let me know if I can be of any assistance.
Retired Marine Biologist
Vero Beach, Florida
Bowen, William G., Mathew M. Chingos, and Michael S. McPherson. 2009. Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Dube, Shanta R., Robert F. Anda, Vincent J. Felitti, Daniel P. Chapman, David F. Williamson, and Wayne H. Giles. (2001). Childhood Abuse, Family Dysfunction, and the Risk of Attempted Suicide Throughout the Lifespan: Findings of the Adverse Childhood Experience Study. Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 286:24. Pp. 3089-3096.
Goldrick-Rab, Sara. (2016). Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream. University of Chicago Press. Chicago Illinois. 260 pp.
Metzler, Marilyn, Melissa T. Merrick, Joanne Klevens, Katie A. Ports, Derek C. Ford. (2017). Adverse childhood experiences and life opportunities: Shifting the narrative. Children and Youth Services Review, 72: 142-149. Link: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740916303449.
Radwin, D., Wine, J., Siegel, P., and Bryan, M. (2013). 2011–12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:12): Student Financial Aid Estimates for 2011–12 (NCES 2013-165). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved [date] from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.
 (NCES Digest of Education Statistics, 2018 [See: www.forbes.com/sites/prestonco...udents/#172e88c6293b]).