December 05, 2013 by Clarise McCants
In light of the work we are doing to reverse UVa’s decision to cut funds from it’s financial aid program, AccessUVa, it is worth highlighting this Forbes article. This piece sheds light on the various factors and stressors that affect low-income students at colleges. It was published shortly after Michelle Obama announced her plans to be a more outspoken advocate for higher education and low-income student access, arguing that there is, according to The Daily Princetonian, a “need to admit more low-income students to colleges and universities in order to raise the proportion of Americans graduating from college.”
Here’s a snippet from the article in Forbes, but it’s definitely worth reading the piece in full:
Much has been written about getting high-achieving, low-income students through the Ivy-covered gates of America’s top colleges. And indeed, the focus on improving the economic diversity of college admissions is needed; a recent Brookings study found that just 8% of low-income students applied to a “reach” school and just 34% of high-achieving students in this group attended one of the country’s 238 most selective universities. (The study defined low income as being in the bottom fourth, income-wise, of families with a senior in high school. For 2008, the year studied, low-income meant a family income below $41,472.)
Not surprisingly, while poor kids are underrepresented on elite campuses, the wealthiest kids are overrepresented. At Harvard, 45.6% of undergraduates come from families with incomes above $200,000 — in other words, incomes in the top 3.8% of all American households.
Yet for all the studies and attention paid to how to get more low income students onto America’s top campuses, there’s little discussion (on or off campus) about what life is like for those students after they win admission.
In a guest column for Duke University’s student newspaper that recently went viral, senior KellyNoel Waldorf addresses how isolating it can feel as a low-income student at an elite university. “Why is it not OK for me to talk about such an important part of my identity on Duke’s campus? Why is the word “poor” associated with words like lazy, unmotivated and uneducated? I am none of those things,” she writes. “Why has our culture made me so afraid or ashamed or embarrassed that I felt like I couldn’t tell my best friends ‘Hey, I just can’t afford to go out tonight?’”
To learn more about the work we’re doing around AccessUVa and to join the campaign, click here.