Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Class privilege

We've been hearing for a while that "elite" colleges and universities are filled with the children of the well-off. An analysis on the Times' Campaign Stops website (inspired, I suspect, by the grain of truth in Rick Santorum's charge that the president's commitment to college education for all makes him a "snob") reports: 74% of those now attending colleges that are classified as “most competitive,” a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only 3% come from families in the bottom quartile. Class reproduction, once again!
But the big picture is more discouraging still, as this graph taken from Postsecondary Education Opportunity (No. 221, November 2010; link in the Campaign Stops page; graphs I'm showing on pp 1, 10, 6) shows. Even in the third quartile, the college completion rate is less than half that of the top quartile, to say nothing of the bottom half. Indeed more than half of all bachelors degrees given go to the top quartile.
This doesn't mean kids from the majority of American households don't go to college. They do, in growing numbers. But making it through college is another thing entirely. Something's not working here.

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