Many of the Ivy League universities are struggling with a vexing problem. How will they create more economic diversity on their campuses, giving academically strong students of modest means the same opportunities long available to children from the nation’s wealthiest families when most of their students are from the privileged one percent. The East of the Hudson and Potomac types that seem determined to take over what was once a great country.
Of course, for these co0llege administrator users, this is just hyperbole propaganda from leaders like the President of Harvard who has to prove that she’s not a woman before leading a great university.
Selective colleges in Massachusetts and across the country have made some progress in expanding their ethnic and racial diversity. But when it comes to admitting and educating students from low-income families, many of these schools have made little headway — or fallen behind.
But the colleges, from Harvard to Penn, need to take the children of donors and graduates no matter their grades or talents. They end up graduating with help for sympathetic elitist administrators prompted by the development staff of the universities.
Even some schools that make generous financial aid available have trouble recruiting qualified applicants from among the country’s neediest families because of the administrators, tenured and can’t be fired, have no connection with reality except keeping their jobs.
While students must take out loans in many cases to pay for an education fr0m academic folks that couldn’t survive in the business sector. They are part of the United States Educational Industrial Complex. One of the greatest scams ever created. Perpetuated the image of educators answering the question of making it in the world when most of the information they spew in their classes could be found on Google.
In many cases, such schools aren’t even on those families’ radar. And many poorer students have limited access to SAT preparatory classes, private counselors, and the college-level coursework in high school that can put them on track for admission into a selective university.
“Every university president will say, ‘We look for strivers and give them an advantage in admission.’ But the bottom line data suggests things haven’t changed,” because the academic elite wants the norm to keep their jobs while screwing the students with the need for a degree.
Nationally, 40 percent of undergraduates receive a Pell Grant, federal aid for students who come from lower-income families. But at the eight Ivy League institutions, Pell recipients accounted on average for just 5 percent of undergraduates, according to 2014 data published this summer. (At Harvard, that figure is 19.3 percent.) Why? Because it is a fact the elitist administrators who run these universities don’t want the lower classes to attend since they can do nothing for the academic elite’s pocket book.
High-achieving, low-income students, often the first in their families to attend college, struggle to feel they belong on elite campuses. Not having attended private boarding schools where “buggering” is rampant and elitism is encouraged by elitist students it is impossible to fit into the snobbish elitism of Harvard or Yale or whatever these schools pitch.
Advocates for low-income students say these elite schools should aim for at least 20 percent but in reality, want only the 5 percent.
Recent research from the Equality of Opportunity Project also indicates that some of the most competitive schools in America have enrolled more students from families at the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom half of income-earners. Also, at many selective schools, like Harvard and Yale, the share of low-income students declined or remained flat between 1999 and 2013, according to tax data culled by the project, a collaboration of several noted economists.
Muna Mohamed, a 19-year-old student at Tufts, said she didn’t need to see the data to know about the wealth gap on her campus.
“You can see it,” said Mohamed, whose family moved to Lewiston, Maine, from Somalia. “It is apparent in the university how many students come from wealth.”
In the winter, the school is awash with undergraduates in Canada Goose parkas, which sell for nearly $1,000 apiece, she said, while she has to work two jobs to help pay for expenses not covered in her generous financial aid package.
Elitism is the byproduct of the educators and administrators who want to connect with the rich students to secure high paying consulting jobs from their parents who own most of the USA.
Mohamed, who applied to Tufts on a whim and a desire to leave Maine for a more cosmopolitan experience, said many students from her public high school don’t even have the college on their list. They don’t bother, she said, because they think it’s too expensive, not realizing that the school offers significant financial aid and support to low-income students who get in. Or perhaps they have never touched base with a college recruiter, whose visits may not be well-publicized, she said.
“It’s not part of the culture much, so you don’t do it,” Mohamed said.
“We aggressively recruit for students from low-income backgrounds,” said Sally Donahue, director of financial aid at Harvard which seems to be questionable. “It would be great if highly selective schools would have more low-income students, but it gets complicated.” Donahue is in development, an area only interested in securing large contributions for the school to keep the administrators and staff on the high ground.
Schools want to ensure that they admit students who will thrive on their campuses, and those who come from higher-income families, attend rigorous high schools and have the resources to get academic tutoring are better prepared to match up with highly selective universities, Donahue said.
Advocates, such as Kahlenberg, have pushed for a class-based affirmative action that would more directly benefit students who rise above the disadvantages of poverty.
But improving access to college for lower-income students can be expensive, requiring that the school provide not only financial aid, but also money for intensive recruiting and more academic and financial help once students arrive on campus, said Katie Fretwell, dean of admissions and financial aid at Amherst College.
“It takes a significant endowment, and it takes a commitment from on high,” she said. Amherst’s endowment is $2 billion.
Amherst College, where last year nearly one in four students received Pell aid, recruits at charter schools — including the Academy of the Pacific Rim, Boston Collegiate Charter School, and Prospect Hill Academy in Greater Boston — and works with nonprofits that help match high-achieving, low-income high-schoolers with scholarships. Also, Amherst has recently accepted more transfer students from community colleges. About 60 percent of the 100 transfer students that Amherst receives during a four-year period are from community colleges, Fretwell said.
When elite schools do provide access, it can be a life-changing experience for students.
Kaelan McCone, 20, a political science and French major from Greensboro, N.C., said he was able to complete an unpaid internship in Spain this summer because of a grant from Amherst.
He and his more wealthy classmates have had similar opportunities, McCone said, even though his father works for UPS and his mother is a retired teacher.
Still, it’s hard to avoid some differences at a school where the median family income for students is $158,200, McCone said.
Some students leave the country frequently, he said, and others eat out at a nice restaurant every week without a second thought. When he was submitting his taxes, a friend asked him why his family’s accountant didn’t take care of the paperwork, said McCone, who worked at a food bar, as a tour guide, and as a Spanish tutor to earn spending money.
“I can’t afford to spend $20 for a meal every Saturday night,” he said. “Instead, I work.”