The higher education gap

Really interesting article by Amanda Ripley in the latest Atlantic on the growing gap in college education between rich and poor and what to do about it.  The article focuses on how Starbucks is working with Arizona State’s on-line programs to try and make a college education much more accessible and affordable.  But it’s still a lot more than that.  The support that seems built in for upper-income college students is really lacking for lower income students.  To the degree they can, ASU, is implementing more advising/mentoring/coaching, etc., to try and overcome this.  In truth, most colleges really aren’t very user-friendly places at all and if we want more college graduates this should certainly change.

Anyway, lots of good stuff, but this little factoid really stuck with me and I expect I’ll be citing it a lot in the future:

We like to think of college as a meritocracy, a place where only the dedicated and smart survive. But it seems to be something else. Between 1970 and 2012, the proportion of American 24-year-olds who came from affluent families and had a bachelor’s degree rose from 40 percent to 73 percent—quite an enlightenment period for privileged kids. But over the same period, the proportion of American 24-year-olds who came from low-income families and had a bachelor’s degree rose from 6 percent to just 8 percent. [emphasis mine] The country’s uneven public-school systems cannot be blamed entirely for this state of affairs. Too many people come to college unprepared academically, it’s true. But even those low-income students who outperform their affluent peers on tests are less likely to graduate from college.

Yowza.  We have to  do something about that.  I know it needs to be systematic, but I was actually inspired last night to email a friend in advising at NCSU to see if she knows what I can do as a faculty member to more directly help lower-income and first-generation college students apt to struggle.  This is a hell of a lot of wasted human capital and, though, of course, not everybody is meant for college, all of us will benefit tremendously if we can find a way to get more lower income kids successfully through college.

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