New America Foundation report: Colleges select wealthy students for merit scholarships

12 May

Moi wrote in Race, class, and education in America:

Many educators have long recognized that the impact of social class affects both education achievement and life chances after completion of education. There are two impacts from diversity, one is to broaden the life experience of the privileged and to raise the expectations of the disadvantaged. Social class matters in not only other societies, but this one as well.

A few years back, the New York Times did a series about social class in America. That series is still relevant. Janny Scott and David Leonhardt’s overview, Shadowy Lines That Still Divide describes the challenges faced by schools trying to overcome the disparity in education. The complete series can be found at Social Class

Sam Dillion has written an insightful New York Times article, Merger of Memphis and County School Districts Revives Race and Class Challenges:

When thousands of white students abandoned the Memphis schools 38 years ago rather than attend classes with blacks under a desegregation plan fueled by busing, Joseph A. Clayton went with them. He quit his job as a public school principal to head an all-white private school and later won election to the board of the mostly white suburban district next door.

Now, as the overwhelmingly black Memphis school district is being dissolved into the majority-white Shelby County schools, Mr. Clayton is on the new combined 23-member school board overseeing the marriage. And he warns that the pattern of white flight could repeat itself, with the suburban towns trying to secede and start their own districts.

There’s the same element of fear,” said Mr. Clayton, 79. “In the 1970s, it was a physical, personal fear. Today the fear is about the academic decline of the Shelby schools.”

As far as racial trust goes,” Mr. Clayton, who is white, added, “I don’t think we’ve improved much since the 1970s….”

Toughest of all may be bridging the chasms of race and class. Median family income in Memphis is $32,000 a year, compared with the suburban average of $92,000; 85 percent of students in Memphis are black, compared with 38 percent in Shelby County….

People tend to cluster in neighborhoods based upon class as much as race. Good teachers tend to gravitate toward neighborhoods where they are paid well and students come from families who mirror their personal backgrounds and values. Good teachers make a difference in a child’s life. One of the difficulties in busing to achieve equity in education is that neighborhoods tend to be segregated by class as well as race. People often make sacrifices to move into neighborhoods they perceive mirror their values. That is why there must be good schools in all segments of the country and there must be good schools in all parts of this society. A good education should not depend upon one’s class or status.

Elvina Nawaguna of NBC News reports in the article, Study: Low-income students get less merit aid than wealthier classmates:

Low-income students are increasingly bypassed when colleges offer applicants financial aid, as schools compete for wealthier students who can afford rising tuition and fees, according to a public policy institute’s analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.

The study by The New America Foundation said that colleges, in their quest to advance their U.S. News & World Report rankings, are directing more financial aid to high-achieving applicants in a bid to elevate the profile of their student population.

“A lot of them (colleges) go for the same students from the rich suburban schools,” said Stephen Burd, the foundation’s education policy analyst who studied the data.

The U.S. News rankings of colleges and universities have become a popular gauge of the quality of an undergraduate and graduate institution’s education and the prestige of its degrees.

As part of their strategy to compete for the best students, colleges use merit-based aid, which does not take into account financial need. Under this strategy, institutions may, for instance, give four $5,000 awards to lure four wealthy students rather than award $20,000 to one needy student, the organization said.

While the federal government issues guidelines on distribution of its grants, it doesn’t regulate aid from an institution’s coffers. Colleges have fiercely fought efforts by lawmakers to force greater transparency in financial aid practices.

Colleges, many under tighter budgets as they offer more amenities and hire the best professors, are under pressure to raise revenues and are using tuition prices to do so.          

Here is the press release from New America Foundation:

NEW REPORT: Colleges Leaving Low-Income Students Behind

Schools Increasingly Using Financial Aid to Woo Wealthy Students Rather Than Help Low-Income Students Afford Tuition

Published:   May 8, 2013

Washington, DC — In their relentless pursuit of prestige and revenue, American private and public four-year colleges and universities are increasingly using financial aid to attract the best and most affluent students rather than to help low-income and working-class families pay for college, according to a new report released today by the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program.

The report presents a brand new analysis of little-examined U.S. Department of Education data showing the “net price” the lowest-income students pay after all grant aid has been exhausted. The analysis shows that hundreds of colleges expect the neediest students — those from families making $30,000 or less annually — to pay an amount equal to or even more than their families’ yearly earnings.

The report finds that over the past two decades colleges have made a dramatic switch in how they use the majority of their financial aid. Schools have gone from helping to make college more affordable for those with the greatest financial need to strategically awarding merit aid to students who can increase their standings in rankings like U.S. News & World Report and bring in more revenue. This report identifies colleges that are committed to enrolling low-income students and charging them affordable prices and others that are stingy with their admissions slots, their financial aid dollars, or both.

“Too many four-year colleges, both public and private, are failing to help the government achieve its college access mission,” Stephen Burd, author of the report, writes. “They are, instead, adding hurdles that could hamper the education progress of needy students or leave them with mountains of debt after they graduate.”

The report shows the situation is not as extreme at public universities but getting worse. One of the main ways states have dealt with dwindling state support has been to take a “high tuition, high aid” approach — raising tuition and the amount of financial aid they provide. However, this analysis finds the “high tuition, high aid” approach has been a failure for low-income students: in states such as Pennsylvania, the neediest students are being charged more than double what they are in low-tuition states.

Among the report’s findings:

Nearly two-thirds of private nonprofit institutions charge students from the lowest income families a net price of more than $15,000. Only 11 percent charge them less than $10,000.
• Roughly one-third of public four year colleges charge the lowest-income students a net price over $10,000 and 5 percent require they come up with $15,000 or more.
• One-quarter of the public schools that charge more than $10,000 to lowest income students are in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states that follow the high-tuition, high-aid model.
• The most expensive private college for low-income students is Santa Clara University (average net price is $46,347) and the most expensive public college for the neediest students is Rowan University in New Jersey (average net price is $20,384).

The report argues for a federal approach that follows a two-part plan laid out here:

Offer Pell bonuses to financially strapped public and private four-year colleges that serve a substantial share of Pell Grant recipients (more than 25 percent) and graduate at least half of their students school-wide.
• Require wealthier colleges that have chosen to divert their aid to try to buy the best students so they can rise up the U.S. News rankings to match at least a share of the Pell dollars they receive.

Read the full report, “Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-Income Behind.”

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Clara Hogan.

The lawyers in Brown were told that lawsuits were futile and that the legislatures would address the issue of segregation eventually when the public was ready. Meanwhile, several generations of African Americans waited for people to come around and say the Constitution applied to us as well. Generations of African Americans suffered in inferior schools. This society cannot sacrifice the lives of children by not addressing the issue of equity in school funding in a timely manner.

The next huge case, like Brown, will be about equity in education funding. It may not come this year or the next year. It, like Brown, may come several years after a Plessy. It will come. Equity in education funding is the civil rights issue of this century.


The role economic class plays in college success 

Helping community college students to graduate        

The digital divide affects the college application process

College readiness: What are ‘soft skills’                                      

Colleges rethinking who may need remedial education

Where information leads to Hope. ©      Dr.

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One Response to “New America Foundation report: Colleges select wealthy students for merit scholarships”


  1. Fostering Equal Opportunity on the Path to College | - May 13, 2013

    […] New America Foundation report: Colleges select wealthy students for merit scholarships […]

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