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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Elite colleges perpetuate inequality

Elite universities help well-off students do well, writes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. They do little for upward mobility because they admit very, very few low-income achievers.

He cites a paper by Raj Chetty and colleagues that issued “mobility report cards” for each college and university. It looked at whether young adults were earning more than their parents.

The “true mobility champions of higher education” are places like “State University of New York at Stony Brook, where 16 percent of students are from the bottom quintile, more than four times the Ivy League average,” writes Thompson. “Other all-stars in this category include California State University in Los Angeles, Pace University in New York, and South Texas College.”

While “spending on Pell Grants for low-income students nearly tripled between 2001 and 2011,” almost none of that went to the very poor, the economists found. Congress raised the income-eligibility threshold for Pell to qualify more families for aid.

“Practically the entire growth in low-income students has happened at for-profit colleges,” where students are the least likely to earn a degree and have the worst earnings outcomes if they do, writes Thompson.

Two University of Michigan students have published an online guide called “Being Not Rich at UM.” The crowdsourced Google Doc has advice on managing college costs, writes NPR’s Ari Shapiro.

Griffin St. Onge and Lauren Schandevel, both juniors, “were inspired to create the guidebook after their student government published its own guide about ‘cost-effective’ living at the university, which St. Onge, a first generation college student, found out-of-touch,” Shapiro writes. “Its suggestions included skipping weekly manicures and opting to do your own laundry instead of using a service.”

“I didn’t really realize the culture of Michigan before coming here,” she says. “I had been warned about it a little bit, but I had never met the kind of wealth that some of the students have here by the time I came to university. ” . . . There was also just a lot of great sections about making friends — because sometimes it can be hard when you’re meeting a lot of really wealthy students, and they go to vacation in Europe for spring break and things like that. And you wanna do things with them, but they want to eat out all the time, and like how do you navigate that?”

The idea is catching on at other universities, including the University of Texas. Here’s “Being Not-Rich at UT.

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