For achievers, it's not the money

High-achieving, low-income students aren’t kept from college over money, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. He’s responding to one part of Columbia Professor Andrew Delbanco’s NY Review of Books article, Universities in Trouble.

When the poor but gifted and motivated students Delbanco describes materialize, they are treated like 6-11 power forwards looking for athletic scholarships.

Money is a barrier for average students with low incomes:  A 2002 federal study “estimated that more than 160,000 students with annual family incomes below $50,000 were qualified for college admission but did not attend even a two-year community college because of financial barriers.” But “qualified” was defined as a 2.7 grade point average or an 820 combined math and verbal score on the SAT.

We’re losing the “potentially successful,” Mathews writes. Most low-income students don’t develop the academic skills and work habits they need to excel. They’re out of the game long before 12th grade.

Low-income students with good brains continue to perform poorly in large part, I think, because they attend high schools run by people who don’t believe such kids can learn very much and who don’t try very hard to teach them. Educators who do believe in their potential find it difficult to get the resources they need because too many policymakers, politicians, voters and taxpayers do not share that optimism.

If you know “any gifted and motivated students you know who have been unable to go to college because of money,” send their names and contact info to mathewsj@washpost.com. Mathews promises to help.

Mathews is correct for students who are citizens and legal residents.  If they’re truly high achievers, they will get college scholarships.  For undocumented immigrants, who aren’t eligible for public aid, it’s much tougher. Some private colleges will offer aid; many will not fund “international” students.

I recently interviewed graduating seniors at Downtown College Prep, the San Jose charter school that’s the subject of my book, Our School (available in hardcover or paperback).  The undocumented students are starting at community colleges, which they can afford, and planning to transfer to a four-year university with a private scholarship raised by DCP. (Eventually, they will legalize their status through a relative’s sponsorship or marriage.)  Without the promise of a scholarship, even the high achievers would find college an impossible dream.

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Comments

  1. I have worked with any number of illegal immigrants on their college admissions tests. Two of them, at least, were exceptional talents. One is at Berkeley, and I’m not sure where the other is going–I’ll find out this fall when I check in. They are both from low income families.

    I think the world of these two and the many other undocumented students I’ve worked with. Nonetheless, all non-California residents should pay international fees for public universities, and should not be allowed to attend community college on the state’s dime.

  2. Ooops–I should have said “illegal immigrants” not “non-California residents”. I have zero idea what I was thinking of.

  3. The world is filled with would-be college students with high potential. I applaud their efforts to better themselves.
    Nonetheless, I want them to pay the same as any other non-US citizen – regardless of their status as a US high school grad.
    For most of these illegals, they received their US education as part of a fraud. They didn’t deserve to attend on our dollar.
    Instead of being grateful that our country, unlike other countries, allows non-citizens to be educated through high school, without paying for it, they are outraged that their superior performance isn’t rewarded with more free (or very low-cost) schooling.
    I don’t like the current situation. The people that employ the parents tacitly benefit from the fact that other people – the taxpayers – have to pick up the tab for educating their children. I’d prefer that we find a better system. Perhaps, if employers are going to hire illegals, they should have to reimburse the school system for any of the illegals’ children that attend? Maybe the need to cover the cost would encourage them to hire Americans?
    Why aren’t these companies that have hired illegals sued by the local schools for the cost? That sounds like a worthy law school project to me.
    I can’t say that I like the sound of that quote in this post, either.
    “Eventually, they will legalize their status through a relative’s sponsorship or marriage.”
    Why don’t they get a relative’s sponsorship NOW? Is this a suggestion that they shop around for a fraudulent marriage partner?

  4. The world is filled with would-be college students with high potential. I applaud their efforts to better themselves.
    Nonetheless, I want them to pay the same as any other non-US citizen – regardless of their status as a US high school grad.
    For most of these illegals, they received their US education as part of a fraud. They didn’t deserve to attend on our dollar.
    Instead of being grateful that our country, unlike other countries, allows non-citizens to be educated through high school, without paying for it, they are outraged that their superior performance isn’t rewarded with more free (or very low-cost) schooling.
    I don’t like the current situation. The people that employ the parents tacitly benefit from the fact that other people – the taxpayers – have to pick up the tab for educating their children. I’d prefer that we find a better system. Perhaps, if employers are going to hire illegals, they should have to reimburse the school system for any of the illegals’ children that attend? Maybe the need to cover the cost would encourage them to hire Americans?
    Why aren’t these companies that have hired illegals sued by the local schools for the cost? That sounds like a worthy law school project to me.
    I can’t say that I like the sound of that quote in this post, either.
    “Eventually, they will legalize their status through a relative’s sponsorship or marriage.”
    Why don’t they get a relative’s sponsorship NOW? Is this a suggestion that they shop around for a fraudulent marriage partner?
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  5. “But “qualified” was defined as a 2.7 grade point average or an 820 combined math and verbal score on the SAT.”

    Shoot for the stars