That's the conclusion you could easily make after reading an insightful column in The New York Times that was written this week by David Leonhardt.
I want to draw attention to the column because elite schools have long received kudos for their great financial aid policies. But if these wealthy schools accept few low-income students why should anybody be impressed?
Watering Holes for the Rich
For generations schools like Harvard, Princeton and Yale have primarily educated the children of wealthy Americans. Unfortunately, this bias towards educating the most privileged students has now spread to state flagships, such as the University of Michigan, which are increasingly spurning their own residents in favor of wealthy outsiders who can pay huge out-of-state tuition premiums.
Amherst College ExceptionIn his column, Leonhardt interviewed Anthony Marx, the outgoing president of Amherst College, whose institution made it a priority to accept more low-income students and has succeeded.
"We claim to be part of the American dream and of a system based on merit and opportunity and talent," Mr. Marx observed. "Yet if at the top places, two-thirds of the students come from the top quartile and only five percent come from the bottom quartile, then we are actually part of the problem of the growing economic divide rather than part of the solution."
In the column, Marx shared a study conducted by Georgetown University that examined the class of 2010 at the nation's 193 most selective schools. Here, he said, is what the study revealed:
"As entering freshmen, only 15 percent of students came from the bottom half of the income distribution. Sixty-seven percent came from the highest-earning fourth of the distribution. These statistics mean that on many campuses affluent students outnumber middle-class students."
I would hope that other elites schools would follow Amherst's lead, but so far they seem content to continue serving as rich-kid magnets. I've written about this sad phenomenon myself here:
The Nation's 15 Richest and Stingiest Colleges
In the following blog post, Leonhardt suggested some ways to push the nation's wealthiest institutions to do the right thing:
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