Blog Post | June 14, 2006

Economic Diversity in the News

“Working Class Students Feel the Pinch” in the Chronicle of Higher Education on June 9. This article is about how the financial aid formula can work against working-class students who work hard to pay for school. Here’s an excerpt until we get a free link (the Chronicle is subscription only):

While there is no formal definition of working-class students, experts commonly use those from lower-middle-income families with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, as a substitute. The proportion of bachelor’s degrees going to students from those families has declined over the past 25 years, from about 15 percent of all B.A. degrees earned in 1980 to about 11 percent in 2004. Comparatively, the share of the degrees going to students from more affluent families has risen to 79 percent from 72 percent over that period.

Working-class students are not well served, financial-aid experts say, by a student-aid system created by the federal government in the 1960s and 70s to help make college more affordable for students from low- and middle-income backgrounds. When the formula the government uses to assess a student’s need was put into place, most students came from traditional two-parent families who could pay at least a portion of their children’s college bills, and fewer students worked full time while enrolled in college. Those expectations were written into the formula, and, as a result, students are essentially penalized for working long hours to pay their way through college.

The only place to find comparative data on students with family incomes between $30,000 and $60,000 is at

“Working-Class Students Increasingly End Up at Community Colleges, Giving Up on a 4-Year Degree” in the Chronicle of Higher Education on June 9 looks at how finances and socio-economic status are increasing factors in college choice. Just as Tally Hart and Ken Redd warned, some students are choosing community colleges for economic reasons and not pursuing four-year degrees.

“Opening Up the Elites” in Inside Higher Ed on June 2 focuses on discussions from a conference put on by the Education Testing Service and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The article talks about different strategies to increase low-income access to higher ed, the role of assessment, and the disproportionate focus on elite private institutions when it comes to economic diversity. Lots of lively comments at the end of the article.

“Class Matters” in the Boston Globe on May 13. Now that some elite institutions are making an effort to enroll more lower income students, those students encounter social challenges as they try to fit in with a dominant culture of affluence and privilege. Students at Yale have formed a support group and are profiled in this story.

“Elite Colleges Lag in Serving the Needy” in the Chronicle of Higher Education on May 12 examines the numbers of low income students at elite colleges. The article is a good survey of the state of economic diversity in higher education today.