The University of Virginia, one of the nation’s top public universities, is home to a remarkably affluent group of students: Less than 15 percent of recent undergraduate students at AVU come from families whose incomes are low enough to be eligible for Pell Grants, the largest federal financial aid program. .
The same is true at some other public universities, including Auburn, Georgia Tech, and William & Mary. This is also true at a larger group of elite private colleges, including Bates, Brown, Georgetown, Oberlin, Tulane, and Wake Forest. The bias is so extreme at some colleges that more undergraduates come from the top 1% of the income distribution than from the bottom 60% overall, a university study found.
It should be remembered that this model existed despite the affirmative action. Almost all colleges with easy enrollment have historically used race-based admissions policies. These policies have often succeeded in producing racial diversity without producing as much economic diversity.
After the Supreme Court decision last week prohibit race-based affirmative action, much of the commentary focused on how admissions officers could use economic data, such as household income or wealth, to ensure racial diversity is maintained. And if they find how to do it matters (as I have previously covered).
But racial diversity is not the only form of diversity that matters. Economic diversity counts for itself: The dearth of low-income students at many elite colleges is a sign that educational opportunities have been limited for Americans of all races. In other words, economic factors like household wealth are not valid simply because they are a potential indicator of race; they are also a measure indicative of disadvantage per se.
As colleges revamp their admissions policies To answer the court’s decision, there will be two different questions that need to be asked: can the new system Also like the former to enroll Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students? And can he do better to enroll low-income students? So far, public debate has tended to ignore this second question.
The F&M model
Creating more economically diverse selective campuses is both difficult and possible.
It’s difficult because almost every aspect of the admissions system favors affluent applicants. They go to better secondary schools. They receive help with their essays from their highly educated parents. They know how to use the system by choosing character-building extracurricular activities and taking standardized tests multiple times. In many cases – whether the nominees are athletes or the children of alumni, donors or faculty members – they benefit from their own version of affirmative action.
Nevertheless, some colleges have recently shown that it is possible to enroll and graduate more middle- and low-income students.
These newly diversified colleges include several with multi-billion dollar endowments (such as AmherstHarvard, Princeton, Swarthmore and Yale). The list also includes colleges with fewer resources – like franklin marshallMacalaster, Vassar and Wooster — who had to make tough choices to find the money to boost their scholarship budgets. Fundamentally, these campuses haven’t sacrificed one form of diversity for another: they also tend to be racially diverse.
Admissions officers at these colleges have acknowledged that talented students from modest backgrounds usually don’t look so polite. Their essays may be less impressive, perhaps because they have been less edited by adults. The student’s summer activity may have been work in her own poor neighborhood – rather than a social justice trip to a poor region abroad.
Many of these students have enormous promise. By admitting them, an elite college can change the trajectories of entire families. A college dominated by affluent students, on the other hand, fails to serve as the driver of opportunity it could be.
I am not saying that economic diversity is an adequate substitute for racial diversity. The United States has a specific history of racial discrimination, especially against blacks and Native Americans, which continues to restrict opportunities for teens today. The Supreme Court’s ruling sometimes banning race-based affirmative action seemed to wish for this story, imagining the country had moved beyond racism. In truth, students of color, at all income levels, face challenges that white students do not.
But many of the people who run elite colleges have had their own blind spots over the past few decades. They have often excluded class from their definition of diversity. They enrolled students of all races and religions, from every continent and region of the United States, with little regard for the economic privilege that many of these students shared.
Now that colleges are legally required to change their approach, they have a new opportunity to broaden their definition of diversity.
Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and student debt have given Democrats an opportunity to speak class and improve their elitist image. Jonathan Weisman of The Times asks, “Will the party pivot?
“Positive discrimination, in my opinion, was doomed to failure”, Jay Caspian Kang writes in The New Yorkerfocusing on how the system treated Asian Americans.
This could be an opportunity to improve college admissions, writes Times Opinion. Seven experts share how they would revise the system.
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