Monday, September 24, 2007

Great editorial on college admissions

a recent study of 146 selective colleges and universities, which concluded that students from the top quartile of the socioeconomic hierarchy (based on parental income, education and occupation) are 25 times more likely to attend a “top tier” college than students from the bottom quartile.
William Bowen, the former president of Princeton, and his associates discovered, in a rigorous study of 19 selective colleges, that applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, whether defined by family income or parental education, “get essentially no break in the admissions process.” The paucity of students from poor and working-class backgrounds at the nation’s selective colleges should be a national scandal.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this new information? Shouldn't everyone be expected to do well if they are going to get into a first or second tier school? Don't we already know that children from more privilidged backgrounds tend to do better (using grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities as a metric) than children from less privilidged backgrounds? Aren't grades, test scores and extra curricular activities the primary metrics used in college admissions? I don't think lowering standards is the best way to raise them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting study. I thought this was interesting, too:

http://www.collegebasics.com/paying-for-college/financial-aid/what-financial-aid-officers-cant-or-wont-tell-you.html

Traciatim said...

Fancy that, rich people get in to better schools. Who woulda thunk it? Maybe next we can have a research grant to see if rich people actually do have more money?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to not be PC, but rich kids tend to have smarter parents -- that's why they're rich in the first place. Obviously there are a lot of exceptions to the rule (Paris Hilton comes to mind). But on average - and we are just talking averages - smarter people tend to do better financially and marry others with similar backgrounds. And the cycle perpetuates.

When rich folks have kids, the kids often get the benefit of both the smarter-than-average genes and a good learning environment. So it's no surprise that richer kids are getting into better schools. To the extent that naturally bright poor kids aren't getting in, that's a national scandal. The point of an "intelligence" test like the SAT is to find those kids and help them get into good schools. But the sad fact is that most poor kids are all that bright. The real national scandal would be to take away a smart rich kid's opportunity to help a less-bright poor kid. We already have that, actually - it's called affirmative action. Maybe you can write an article about why scandal is such a sacred institution on the left.

Anonymous said...

Anya, I got a good start from an average background (I had 2 parents at least) in a minimalist city, out of the mainstream, a big country town it is often said. People I know these days think I must have come from a rich family and gone to a good private school, but that is defintely the opposite of the truth. We were poor. I got into college because my merits were honed being austracised from other "cool" students so much that studying was the only way to express the inner worth I knew I had, and in order to gain attention at least from teachers while my parents were arguing, going through a divorce. The fact is, all parents are not there all the time, especially in poor families, and don't have the time, energy or wherewithal to sit a child down and put them on track. Mine certainly didn't. Neither did my busy teachers. I argue that was their job too, while my parenst were out earning their tax money. In the end I did well and went to a good college but had no motivation or goal, because no one ever counselled me (parents, school, boy scout master) that "realistically, this is what you life will look like in grand terms." The closest I got to a life education was playing The Game of Life. The game rings true now, and I honestly think you can argue that without purpose in a life, that game is about what all our lives are worth.
What I want to say most is that what kids from poor families have going for them, most of the time, is their own brains and that's it. Positivity is what gets them to a good school, not their parents wallets. Is a poor parent going to suggest their child leaves their social class and moves up and away? No, parents for the most part like their kids to be around. But helping to develop communities and enlightenment beyond the TV screen is a universal necessity.
My practical answer is that schools just have to teach kids the benefits of certain institutions, how to use them to reach their goals, but before that, the joy and empowerement you get from achieving goals. Schools need to say "who wants us to help you to get to your goal?" and give all students individual follow up to help them reach them. There is nothing more positive to everyone around them than an empowered teenager. There just aren't enough of them. For the yound adult, learning the feeling of achievement just leads to a better life, maybe entrance to a great school, or just a better feeling of fit with the community. But honing a childs skill at achieving their goals is a class sadly acking in the schooling of the majority of publcily funded schools. Spending more time teaching a child how to realise and follow up on their own dreams independant of the competition and peer pressure they get in schools is what is going to even the playing field. I never did use calculus and French after leaving school anyway.

Anonymous said...

I grew up poor with unattentive parents and made it through college and I'm about to get my PhD in physics from a top tier school. I can tell you from experience that pretty much no one from my social economic background makes it this far. I've been lucky
I wouldn't say that it's a national scandal that more children of working class don't go to college. First off, they don't need to go to college - you do need some of the population doing janitorial work and other low-skilled jobs. Secondly, this is what naturally occurs in a capitalistic and competitive society. You can't expect that the college demographic represent all social economic classes equally. The fact that it isn't doesn't mean there is systematic oppression going on.
You provide avenues for people to move up IF they chose to work hard but your ultimate goal isn't to match some sort of quota.
I don't think you've thought this through and there are more substantive things to get outraged over.

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