While colleges may say that they want to help more low-income students attend and succeed at American colleges, in truth it looks like the trend is to stay away from poor students, who mostly seem to cause trouble for colleges. Because they don’t bring in revenue, they’re expensive to educate.

According to the 2011 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College & University Admissions Directors a “top goal of admissions directors is recruiting more students who can pay more.” Almost a quarter of admissions directors at four-year schools reported this.

According to the report:

The economic downturn appears to be having a particular impact on public institutions. Admissions directors across public institutions acknowledge new efforts to recruit full-pay students. “Full-pay” undergraduates are priority “targets” across all public sector campus… Public doctoral universities and master’s institutions are also pursuing out-of-state students (who also generate additional revenue because of the higher tuition rates they are charged).

Public doctoral institutions have also increased their efforts to recruit international students for their undergraduate programs. Less selective institutions also appear to be pursuing “revenue” students. Almost half (48.0 percent) of moderately selective institutions and about a third (31.2 percent) of less selective campuses report enhanced recruiting efforts focused on full-pay students….

That’s the thing with poor students. A college can always say it’s interested in helping more poor students succeed. But actually helping such students requires effort and investment. It’s a lot easier to enroll more rich students. And no one’s going to chastise you for doing that.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer