Only 3% of Kids in Top Colleges from Low Income Families

The idea that opportunity for education should be based on your ability to learn and not on your economic class status is a warm-and-fuzzy one, but in reality, it just doesn’t happen. A short piece by Dorothy Wickenden in this week’s New Yorker explains how getting into college is much easier for the rich — both liberal and conservative. From the article:

Yet, according to the Century Foundation, only three per cent of students at the hundred and forty-six most competitive colleges come from families whose levels of education, jobs, and income put them in the bottom socioeconomic quarter. Seventy-four per cent come from the top quarter. More startling, recruitment of minority and low-income students actually fell in recent years. In response, some colleges—including Harvard and Princeton and some of the most influential small liberal-arts colleges—now offer substantial subsidies to freshmen whose parents earn less than a middle-class income, and these schools are also working harder to seek out such candidates.

Nevertheless, the most selective colleges are still overly generous to applicants from the kinds of family least in need of a leg up in life. Legacies, the children of alumni and alumnae, have long had an easier time getting in. On top of that are the development cases—the term of art for the often less than academically stellar children of celebrities, wealthy executives, and influential politicians. As Daniel Golden, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, explains in his new book “The Price of Admission,� Ivy League college presidents, admissions deans, and trustees spend a great deal of time and effort soliciting these lucky students, many of whom are admitted with S.A.T. scores three or four hundred points below those of some rejected applicants. [full text]


6 thoughts on “Only 3% of Kids in Top Colleges from Low Income Families

  1. 90% of the fastest growing career-fields in America require higher education but less than 30% of American have that requirement – that’s a train wreck waiting to happen

  2. It’s time we all started screaming about class warfare. The people of privilege are waging a total class war, and yet they get oh-so-offended if we peons bring it up.

    We’re supposed to be at the high end of the economic pyramid, producing what Ricardo called value-added goods via a knowledge economy. This is our strategy for competing in a globalized market. And yet, we cut funds for higher education, cut funds for stem-cell research, and foist warmed-over creationism in our science classes.

    Per BusinessWeek, the World Economic Forum, which sponsors the Davos conferences, has ranked the US 6th in competitiveness. We are behind Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Singapore. Note: 4 of the top five are socialist democracies, which, per Reich-wing babble, cannot come close to matching our competitive advantages.

    The reasons we rank so badly? Lousy macroeconomic environment (read: Massive Budget Deficits), which puts us BEHIND Vietnam, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy. Yup, our health care system is the envy of the world; if you’re rich.

    Did I divert the thread? My apologies if I did, but all of this stuff is of a piece. These are policy decisions that are putting us on this track, heading, as Andre so aptly says, for a train wreck.

  3. Is this post suggesting that colleges use income as an entrance criteria? I came from poverty and used pell grants. I remember there being academic requirements but household income never came up. Maybe there is a correlation between poverty and poor parenting. Just like there is a correlation between poverty and poor work ethic. Duh!

    But after reading this website for the first time, I would assume your response would be to increase government funding. Like paying someone’s way somehow increases their ambition. Psychobabble.

  4. OK, you’ve just contradicted yourself.

    You used Pell Grants, but you’re opposed to extending gov’t aid. A Pell Grant IS gov’t aid. Which means my parents paid for YOUR college through their taxes. So I will expect a check in the mail tomorrow morning for a full reimbursement. Don’t want to stifle your ambition now, do we?

    But now the value of the Pell Grant relative to the cost of a year of college is at an all-time low. So, the Pell Grant that helped YOU now doesn’t help students today nearly so much as it did. Which means it’s harder for a low-income person to attend to college now than it was when you went.

    In short, your message is: you got yours, but god forbid you return the favor and help someone else.

  5. What Dorothy Wickenden’s article suggests is that many too many of the slots at top colleges are being taken up by mediocre students of the rich and famous, leaving little to no room for students with much higher achievement, who may be from the middle class or from the low income families.

    If you knew anything about me you’d know I’m not a “throw money at the problem” person. I hope in the future you will not rush to judgment on me, just as I would not want to do the same to you. I’m not producing this website so that people can vent their anger at liberals on me. I’m producing it to help people think about what kind of a country we want to live in.

  6. IMHO, I believe we should live in a country that helps all its citizens, not just those who don’t need it.

    I also believe that income redistribution is not only a legitimate function of gov’t, it is a necessary function of gov’t. Because–and history provides all sorts of evidence to support this–if left to the ‘free market,’ income and wealth will accumulate in fewer and fewer hands.

    Only gov’t can change this pattern. One way it can do this is to provide assistance for lower-income people–like ???? above–to attend college.

    “Throwing money” is a loaded and necessarily perjorative term. “Throwing money” at a problem will never work. However, the judicious expenditure of money on gov’t aid to help lower income students attend college is a worthwhile use of tax dollars.

    It’s way better than giving tax breaks to people who buy SUVs.

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