BOSTON—More than 80 universities have promised to make the college application process easier through a new website where students will be able to submit applications to many schools, and get coaching to compile a "digital portfolio" of their academic accomplishments.
Some of the top names in higher education are joining the effort under a new coalition called the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.
Their goal is to remove barriers to the application process, especially from low-income students and first-generation college students. The coalition includes private colleges like Harvard and Yale, along with public schools like the University of Florida and Ohio State University.
As soon as summer 2016, some schools in the group will let students apply through the new website. Others are still deciding when to implement it.
The online system includes several tools aimed to get students started on their applications earlier and to create a portfolio of their work. Their high-school teachers and counselors can provide feedback and editing through the system, and students will be linked to college officials who can answer questions.
More details about the website's tools weren't immediately available, but the group said it will unveil more in coming months.
Chief among the coalition's goals is to boost the number of low-income and minority students who apply for college. Researchers have found that complex applications can be a barrier to college, especially for those who don't have the resources to help them through the process.
"The college admission process today can be stress-inducing and we know it can present barriers for all students, especially for those who are the first in their family to attend college," Zina Evans, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Florida, said in a news release.
A federal study in 2002 found that 39 percent of students don't apply to any four-year colleges, and among those who do, 31 percent applied to only one. Other research has found that many high-performing students from low-income athletes don't apply to college.
For years, education experts have sought answers. More than 600 colleges now accept the standardized Common Application, and many colleges offer waivers of fee applications. Still, the White House has said schools need to do more to help students apply.
The coalition said its new online system provides one more option for students to get that help.
"The schools in the coalition have individually tried many different and creative approaches to address these challenges," said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale University, in the release. "We have come to the conclusion that we can have a much bigger impact on student access and completion if we work together."
The group plans to add more members in coming months and says it's also tackling other obstacles students face on the route to college.