Monday, March 3, 2014

Education, the Great Equalizer (Right)

Who goes to college, and which kind of colleges do they go to? A fascinating graph, via Matt Bruenig writing for the Demos blog:

The green bars, representing kids from the bottom quartile, drop from left to right, while the purple bars (for kids from the top quartile) climb. And I'll bet if you added a top 1 percent bar to the graph it would be even more skewed, with almost no one in the first two columns.

Cornell University professor of government Suzanne Mettler provides more data on this divergence.

  • "Three out of four adults who grow up in the top quarter of the income spectrum earn baccalaureate degrees by age 24, but it’s only one out of three in the next quarter down. In the bottom half of the economic distribution, it’s less than one out of five for those in the third bracket and fewer than one out of 10 in the poorest."
  • "In the 1970s, the maximum Pell grants for low-income students covered nearly 80 percent of costs at the average four-year public university, but by 2013-14 they covered just 31 percent."
  • For-profit colleges, "which enroll nearly a tenth of college students, use nearly a quarter of federal student aid dollars allocated through Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, and they account for nearly half of all student loan defaults."
And that's not even touching on the increasing likelihood that college attendance feeds class segregation, since many people meet their life partners during college or (post-college) from among young workers with similar college backgrounds.

Things have probably improved, educationally, in some ways since the mid-1940s when "Robert Maynard Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, worried that [the GI Bill] would transform elite institutions into 'educational hobo jungles.' " But elitism based on nothing more than how much money is in your parents' bank account is alive and well.


Cavewoman said...

Wow, that first bullet is...interesting. So often we hear that the average income for someone with a college degree is significanlty higher than the income for those without. That first bullet makes me wonder if the higher income has more to do with coming from a higher income family in the first place.

Daughter Number Three said...

Exactly. Kind of like how standardized test scores are best predicted by parents' income as well.