Rich students

At the most competitive colleges and universities, more and more students come from wealthy families, reports the New York Times, which is a bit late to the story.

At the most selective private universities across the country, more fathers of freshmen are doctors than are hourly workers, teachers, clergy members, farmers or members of the military — combined.

Experts say the change in the student population is a result of both steep tuition increases and the phenomenal efforts many wealthy parents put into preparing their children to apply to the best schools. It is easy to see here, where BMW 3-series sedans are everywhere and students pay up to $800 a month to live off campus, enough to rent an entire house in parts of Michigan.

At Harvard, median family income is about $150,000. That’s median.

The story doesn’t mention another possible reason for the preponderance of affluent students: They’re the children of successful people, and increasingly people are successful because they’re well-educated. In addition to paying for good schools, the parents must be passing on some good genes.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Genes may play a part but I bet you that from day one, those parents have cared a great deal about their kids education. This is probably the determining factor.

  2. I don’t know about genes being an issue but I can easily see superior habits being passed down.

  3. Really? These families use their connections to bully high school teachers to give out straight A’s (and in some cases bully school administrators to send their kid to a different school), send their kids to SAT prep courses, AP exam tutoring, and application essay-writing classes, and we still think that they care about ‘education’?

    Getting into Harvard depends on how much money one’s parents are willing to spend to get their kid into Harvard. Nothing more, nothing less. Harvard could save everyone a lot of time by just holding an auction.

  4. Joanne,
    I hope you were just being a little sloppy with the language when you attributed this to “good genes”… I don’t doubt that successful parents pass on good traits to their kids that will make them more likely to succeed themselves… but it’s probably far more nuture/environmental than
    nature/genetics…

    By the way, Harvard is eliminating any parental contribution for tuition for families that make under $40,000.
    Students will still have to do work-study (around 10 hrs/wk) during the year, and contribute of order $3000 for summer work. Princeton is replacing loans with out-right grantts.

  5. Jab:

    Why? Can you back up that assertion?

  6. Mark-

    That’s plain wrong. I got into Harvard, my parents never paid anything for a college-entrance-essay writing class, SAT course, AP exam tutoring, (I used the CIA factbook free off the internet to prepare for the comparative government test, for example) or anything like that. I went to a mediocre public school in rural Virginia. My parent spent exactly $60–the cost of the application. You should avoid making blanket statements like that in the future.

  7. I graduated from Harvard in 1993.
    I had 2 roommates my first year.
    Here was the socio/economic background of all 3 of us:
    (1) Me: oldest son of 4 children… raised by single mom on welfare (family income less than $20K)…
    almost full financial aid package (I had to pay a few thousand from summer jobs every year, work-study 10hrs during the academic year, loans of about $8000 TOTAL over 4 years, the rest outright grants/scholarships)
    (2) Roommate #1: Vietnamese immigrant, very poor family,
    again, almost full financial aid, same situation as mine above
    (3) Roommate #3: parents VERY wealthy… as in, father owned an oil company in Texas, and would just right a check for full-tution as if it was chump change)

    I’ve noticed that in my alumni magazine, a few letters to the editor from some wealthy alumni upset over what they see as socialism… the rich pay full tuition, which in a way subsidizes poorer students to attend on financial aid…

  8. CL,
    Hmm, how about asking Joanne to do this same and give evidence for her assertion that its just “good genes”…

  9. Bob Diethrich says:

    So Joanne are you saying that smart educated people tend to marry other smart educated people and produce smart educated children?

    Better be careful here you are coming close to “Bell Curve” territory here! (smile, wink)

  10. Obviously, well-educated people are likely to value education and create an environment for their kids that fosters school success. But they’re also likely to be smarter than average. I have no idea which factors are more important.

    The Ivies and Stanford get their pick of the very best students and usually can recruit the top minority and low-income kids in the country by offering full scholarships. The group that’s being squeezed is the middle class. That’s why universities are offering more generous financial aid deals to middle-class students.

    My freshman year at Stanford I had a very, very wealthy roommate and a very, very poor Native American roommate. It was an interesting contrast.

  11. Bob,

    Again, no one is disputing:
    “that smart educated people tend to marry other smart educated people and produce smart educated children”

    I think some of us were concerned about the attribution
    that “good genes” are the determining factor…
    I don’t even think Joanne was saying that anyway (or at least I hope not). Nature vs. nurture.

  12. I once taught a couple of summer courses at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, whose students are all in the top fraction of 1% of high schoolers. In one class, the students started asking each other what their fathers did for a living — I didn’t bring the subject up, since it seemed it could be touchy. Results: 10 doctors, 1 lawyer, 1 international businessman, 1 schoolteacher. I was the only white male in the classroom, and the two white girl students were daughters of the lawyer and the teacher. The rest of the kids were all East (8) or South (3) Asian. My other class was a little more diverse both ethnically and occupationally, but I was still struck by the enormous preponderance of doctors for parents.

  13. Ah, a nature vs. nurture argument.. with money thrown in for good measure. 🙂

    As I mentioned in a post on another topic, I recently taught 10th grade world history for three weeks at an “under performing” school as part of an emergency teacher credential program. While I know three weeks is not a long time, I still think I learned a lot from the experience.

    Particularly when juxtaposed with my experience with helping a friend prepare for college (e.g., college requirements, SATs, SAT IIs, APs). My friend went to a good suburban school.

    I think the U.S. is increasingly going to be divided into those who get it, and those who don’t. By “it” I mean the value of education, and the importance of deferred gratification. The realization that it is a competative world. Indeed, some of it is motivated by *fear*. The sad irony is that those who have the least to be afraid of regarding their futures, the sons and daughters of the rich and upper-middle class, are the most afraid. Those who have the most to fear about their futures are the least afraid — or at least aware.

    The contrast was, to me, amazing. In one school, a *large* number of kids refused to do homework. At the other, kids are studying, and in some cases obsessing, about their SATS and what college they are going to get into.

    My purpose is not to blame the kids at the underperforming school. (And as I mentioned earlier, the AP kids there were as sharp and capable as any kids I’ve ever met.) They simply don’t get it — they really don’t understand. Part of the reason is that their parents don’t get it. Part of the reason is the low expectations and unreasonable grading in school. (I was giving kids As for work that would have earned a C at a good public school. Had to.) But mostly they don’t get it because they really haven’t been told. Not enough.

    That is the big difference.

    ______________________________________________________ Have you paid your penance? Drinkers Purgatory
    http://www.purevolume.com/DrinkersPurgatory

  14. In the late 80’s, I paid $750/month plus utilities for an apartment in Central Square (about a mile from Harvard). It was not an extravagant place. I can’t imagine what rent is now, but the rent may not be their fault. I wasn’t driving a BMW, though — wasn’t driving anything at all because I didn’t have much money left over after paying rent.

  15. Of course genes are a determining factor. For pete’s sake. Not THE determining factor, of course.

    My daughter’s IQ is 4 points away from mine. It is the same as my older brother’s (you know that oldest/only children usually have a slight edge on later sibs.) She finds the same things interesting that I do … the same things are easy … the same things are hard. I can explain math to her because her brain works like mine. I know she’s going to love physics next year. It’s ridiculous to say that genes have nothing to do with intelligence.

  16. Anonymous says:

    what if we gave JJ $1 for every comment we posted. JJ would have made $38 blogging today. I love this site: here’s my $1.

  17. I’m quite prepared to believe that genes and good parenting contribute towards the preponderance of affluent students at prestigious universities. But this article posits a *change* in the income distribution of students at these top universities: “more and more students from upper-income families are edging out those from the middle class, according to university data.”

    Now, how to account for that change? Do you suppose genes are suddenly being passed along more effectively? Are well-educated parents now pushing even harder for their children? Well, that’s possible. But doesn’t it seem likely that steep tuition increases are playing a significant role in pricing out middle class parents?

  18. Last figure I heard from my bio class (last year) was that it was thought roughly 60% of intelligence is nature and 40% is nurture. So yes, “good genes” could account for some of it.

  19. jeff wright says:

    Charles identified the real issue here. It’s not Harvard. The real pity is that upper middle class kids bust their humps to get into good schools—and they don’t have to go to Harvard, with lower-cost public schools such as UC Berkeley being excellent alternatives—while kids from the lower socio-economic brackets often just don’t seem to try to better themselves by taking advantage of really cheap community colleges and state colleges. You can still get a good degree on the cheap in this country.

    ISTM that way too many kids from the lower rungs have just given up and reconciled themselves to being bottom feeders all of their lives, regardless of their native intelligence. I blame the parents and the schools for failing to inspire these kids to be better than their roots. Why isn’t there a concerted effort to push the next generation to be better than those going before? The privileged and a few bright upwardly mobile poor kids will always go to the Harvards, with the remainder going to one of the many other excellent schools. But what is happening to all of those who might be able to move up, but don’t even consider it? Some serious adult failures here: parents, teachers, society. Does anybody care about poor kids any more?

  20. “Now, how to account for that change? Do you suppose genes are suddenly being passed along more effectively? Are well-educated parents now pushing even harder for their children? Well, that’s possible. But doesn’t it seem likely that steep tuition increases are playing a significant role in pricing out middle class parents?”

    Maybe it’s that being wealthy requires more intelligence than it used to, so the ranks of wealthy parents now average smarter than the ranks of wealthy parents of previous generations.

  21. and remember in your comments, not all fathers are doctors, not all doctors are fathers.

    Moreover, in an age of dual income, two parents who were well-seasoned teachers could beat the Harvard median.

    Quite apart from the nature/nurture discussion AND the genes > jobs assertion

  22. Anonymous says:

    > Moreover, in an age of dual income, two parents
    > who were well-seasoned teachers could beat the
    > Harvard median.

    Really? Please do tell where it is that even the best-seasoned teachers make $75k.

  23. “Maybe it’s that being wealthy requires more intelligence than it used to, so the ranks of wealthy parents now average smarter than the ranks of wealthy parents of previous generations.”

    Maybe, though that strikes me as a somewhat contrived rationale!

    Doesn’t it seem more likely that “more and more students from upper-income families are edging out those from the middle class” because of the steep rise in tuition fees?

  24. I think it’s motivation more than intelligence that wins out in the education game. The students who works their rear ends off and really make an effort to learn the material are going to succeed, regardless of what is placed in front of them.

    I know the type of students Charles speaks of, i’ve seen what they do in school, and for the average teenager, school is about the middle of the list of priorities (due to the fact by the time Thursday rolls around, it’s hard to keep kids focused, as they are MORE worried about partying the upcoming weekend).

    I’ve found that the ONLY time kids start worrying (along with their parental units) is when johnny or jane is in the 12th grade, may or may not have all the required coursework to graduate, and hasn’t passed state mandated exams to receive a diploma (however, by that time, it’s usually too late for the kid, and the parents do nothing but WHINE to the local editorial page).

  25. Roger Sweeny says:

    But this article posits a *change* in the income distribution of students at these top universities: “more and more students from upper-income families are edging out those from the middle class, according to university data.”

    Now, how to account for that change? Do you suppose genes are suddenly being passed along more effectively?

    No, but parents themselves are changing. Prior to the ’60s, a doctor was almost guaranteed to be a he and was likely to marry a nurse or someone else whose book smarts were less than his. The very bright woman was likely to be, say, a schoolteacher and to marry, say, a salesman, again someone who SAT/IQ was likely to be less than her’s.

    Today the doctor is just as likely to be a she and to marry another doctor (the technical term is “assortative mating.”). Nowadays males who go to high-prestige schools tend to marry women who also go to high-prestige schools. Their children get a double dose of school-friendly genes.

    If people who graduate from high-prestige schools also tend to have significantly higher-than-average income, it would stand to reason that the present generation of students at high-prestige schools would have higher parental income than previous generations.

  26. Richard Heddleson says:

    “Really? Please do tell where it is that even the best-seasoned teachers make $75k.”

    Median pay in Palo Alto is $70K per 3/4 year. That’s over $100K annualized.

  27. Walter Wallis says:

    I just found out that rich people tend to have more money than poor people. How do I get paid a lot of money for publishing that?

  28. There are plenty of colleges where one can get a good education (a)at a reasonable cost, and (b)without jumping through hoops to get admitted. The real problem is the perception that you have to go to a “good college” (as defined by the “good colleges”) to get a top-notch job.

    70% of this perception is wrong (check the educational background of F500 CEOs sometime), but 30% of it is accurate, and, unfortunately, the propensity for over-emphasizing “good schools” in hiring seems to be growing.

    If you’re a person with hiring authority, ask yourself: Do I have any real evidence that a degree from Harvard (for example) means more than a degree from XYZ State, in terms of the specific skills and character attributes that I need? If you don’t, and you still go with the Harvard grad (who will probably cost you significantly more $), then you’re acting like a teenager picking the shirt because of the logo.

  29. Steve LaBonne says:

    David, no matter how much it may be overemphasized for hiring in someone’s first job out of college, I guarantee that 5 years down the road nobody gives a crap where you went to college. If the Ivy League grad can’t cut the mustard then at that point he’s going to start to be bypassed in his career by the sharp graduate of State. (Hence the diverse educational background of CEOs, as you noted.

  30. Steve LaBonne says:

    To the anonymous commenter on teacher salaries, they do reach those levels in the Northeast as well. I used to live in the Albany, NY area- which is not even much more expensive than the Cleveland area where I live now (aside from the very high property taxes needed to pay those salaries!). Even some years ago the median teacher salary in the local districts was in the mid-50’s; with half the teachers above that figure, there must have been some senior teachers who made it into the 70s. That would be even more true today.

  31. Steve Labonne-

    I don’t think anyone is saying that Ivy League grads who don’t work hard are going to be on easy street. What they are suggesting is that the elite school grad is more likely to be successful than the state school grad–which is true.

    Think about it this way: The parents of Harvard students clearly know what they are doing with money (hence the $150000 median family income). It therefore seems logical that they also know what they are doing when they sign high tuition checks–unless you assume that they just stop thinking rationally about money right when their kids are choosing colleges.

    The diversity of educational backgrounds of CEOs (which is true, I have seen it at 13% Ivy League, but I don’t have a very reliable cite) is largely due to the fact that so few students attend Ivy League/Stanford/MIT type schools. Does anyone know what percentage of college graduates are Ivy League? I would be very surprised if it exceeds 1.5%. What this all means is that there is tons of hope for the exceptional public school grad–but if I were a parent, all other things equal, the elite school is probably a better investment.

    I recommend “Does it Pay to Attend an Elite Private College? Cross Cohort Evidence on the Effects of College Quality on Earnings” by Brewer, Eide, and Ehrenberg (1996), it is a rather good study of this. It’s conclusion: “Even after controlling for selection effects there is strong evidence of significant economic return to attending an elite private institution, and some evidence that this premium has increased over time.”

  32. Walter Wallis says:

    I asked a buddy of mine whether he would rather hire an engineer from Cal Poly or a Cheer Leader from Cal – He responded “The one with the big tits.”

  33. Intelligence is 60% genes. But success in many fields is not dependent on intelligence.
    Intelligence means something when you are talking about majors like physics, math, and advanced engineering.
    Intelligence means nothing when you talk about women’s studies, ethnic studies, literature, sociology, journalism.

  34. Richard Heddleson says:

    Walter,

    Stop doing your sampling at the Elks.

  35. Walter Wallis says:

    Do you really think the BPOE would take me? Whistle.

  36. Bob Diethrich says:

    As I have posted before, I tell my kids that there are only about twenty schools which will “jump off a resume” and my regular students aren’t going to any of them! I firmly believe that it is what you do in college, not where you went, that matters! (The one wildcard in this equation of course is the “old boy and old girl” alumni networks of some of the more popular schools. That’s why you see fifty five year old men in Texas still wearing their Aggie class rings)

    One other point is the cost of schools and the pricing of some kids out of the market. At my school, I have talked to seniors who are in the top 10% and are settling for UT, A&M and U of H when these kids could go to Rice or higher. This is a disturbing trend as I teach at an upper middle class high school. God knows what the parents of the working and middle class kids are going through.

  37. someone asked
    >Really? Please do tell where it is that
    >even the best-seasoned teachers make $75k.

    Sorry to be controversial with facts

    here’s a starter link …
    http://www.pausd.palo-alto.ca.us/community/employment/teachers/teacher_salaries.shtml

    paging through the SARCs of other schools points up salary ranges, especially when combined with summer employment, that does reach that level.

    Yes these are senior teachers at these pay levels, but then again, teachers with college age children would be the ones in question (which wouldn’t be true for all).

Trackbacks

  1. online casinos

    With over 20,000,000 copies in dozens of languages, online casinos has remained a bestseller for more than fifty years.