Posted on May 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
(Source: Amherst College)
Critics might argue that elite colleges sustain, even exacerbate, racial and social inequality, but officials at these institutions see it another way. By admitting underprivileged kids and providing them necessary financial support, elite schools are redressing the imbalance.
Consider this from the New York Times:
Concerned that the barriers to elite institutions are being increasingly drawn along class lines, and wanting to maintain some role as engines of social mobility, about two dozen schools – Amherst, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Virginia, Williams and the University of North Carolina, among them – have pushed in the past few years to diversify economically.
They are trying tactics like replacing loans with grants and curtailing early admission, which favors the well-to-do and savvy. But most important, Amherst, for instance, is doing more than giving money to low-income students; it is recruiting them and taking their socioeconomic background – defined by family income, parents' education and occupation level – into account when making admissions decisions.
Amherst's president, Anthony Marx, turns to stark numbers in a 2004 study by the Century Foundation, a policy institute in New York, to explain the effort: Three-quarters of students at top colleges come from the top socioeconomic quartile, with only one-tenth from the poorer half and 3 percent from the bottom quartile.
"We want talent from across all divides, wherever we can find it," President Marx said. Amherst covered the full cost of [Amherst student Anthony] Jack's education beyond what he earned in work-study. The only debt he says he owes is the $41 it cost to make copies of his 107-page honors thesis.
Amherst also provides its low-income students important support, from $400 "start-up grants" for winter coats and sheets and blankets for their dorm rooms, to summer science and math tutoring. At the same time, low-income students are expected to put in at least seven hours a week at $8-an-hour work-study jobs.
But they get to use $200 a month in their work-study earnings as spending money to get a haircut, for instance, or go out for pizza with classmates so they don't feel excluded.
Fine policy, if you believe in the mission. But sometimes the rhetoric goes too far:
Mr. Jack's high grades and test scores – a respectable 1200 on the SAT – won him a full scholarship to the University of Florida. But the median score for his Amherst class was 1422, and he would have been excluded had the admissions office not considered his socioeconomic class, and the obstacles he had overcome.
"Tony Jack with his pure intelligence – had he been raised in Greenwich, he would have been a 1500 kid," said Tom Parker, the dean of admission. "He would have been tutored by Kaplan or Princeton Review. He would have had The New Yorker magazine on the coffee table."
Such leaps of logic–especially expressed in the Times–will provide affirmative action opponents more ammunition.