Continued from page 1

“Low-income students, in general, frequently will apply to only one school. In some ways they’re self-selecting out” of more prestigious, expensive schools and only trying for “safe” schools, Ms. Engle said.

For black and Hispanic students, the Georgetown report shows that, if they’re applying to just one school, it’s much more likely it’ll be an affordable community college, rather than the Stanfords and Harvards of the world.

Those less-expensive institutions play an important role in the U.S. higher education system, but attending one by no means guarantees a student will get a degree.

Just 12 percent of students who start at a community college, for example, go on to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to data from the Institute for Higher Education Policy.