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Harvard Using Celebrity Alumni to Reach More Low-Income Students

Actor Matt Damon watches Game One of the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park in Boston on Oct. 23, 2013. Photographer: by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Actor Matt Damon watches Game One of the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park in Boston on Oct. 23, 2013. Photographer: by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Harvard University is enlisting actor Matt Damon and basketball player Jeremy Lin as part of an initiative to encourage low-income students to apply to the college and other selective universities.

The Harvard College Connection will use a video that features Damon, Lin and other former and current students, as well as social media and personal outreach, to connect high school students with the university, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard said today in an e-mail.

Most high-achieving students from low-income families don’t apply to selective universities, even though many schools offer financial aid, according to a 2012 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research. One reason is that there are often just one or two such students at high schools in low-income areas, and it’s inefficient for admissions officers to visit them, the report found. While Harvard travels to more than 140 cities and towns every year, the new program is intended to reach more schools, William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, said in the e-mail.

“To ensure that talented low-income students understand their opportunities, we need to meet them where they are,” Fitzsimmons said. “To date, that has meant literally traveling to meet them in cities and towns across the nation. Going forward, we will meet them in person and online.”

Harvard said it will encourage students to apply to other selective universities as well as Harvard because most students attend college within a few hundred miles of their home.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Staley in London at ostaley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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