- Students from low- and high-income backgrounds tend to have similar outcomes in earnings if they attend the same school, although students with parent's incomes in the top 1% are about 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League school, according to a new paper released by the Equality of Opportunity Project.
- The report measures how colleges affect intergenerational mobility among students, finding that the highest rates of upward mobility for students graduating tend to be at "mid-tier public universities" like the City University of New York or California State colleges and universities.
- The paper also found that the percentage of students from low-income families attending elite universities stayed relatively level between 2000 and 2011, but the percentage from low-income backgrounds dropped sharply at colleges and universities near the top in terms of upward mobility.
The implication that the percentage of students from low-income backgrounds is falling at schools that fared well in terms of upward mobility is disconcerting, as schools like the City University of New York are considered effective vehicles for ascending to more economic and professional opportunities. Higher ed institutions have been increasingly hesitant to offer financial aid support for students who could best utilize it, and at wealthier, selective colleges, only 13% of students are utilizing federal Pell Grants.
Funding cuts in state budgets have left higher ed institutions, particularly public colleges and universities, in a more fraught financial situation, particularly when coupled with struggles with enrollment and lower tuition revenue. The possibility that federal funding could be slashed may only exacerbate the problem, though there are indications in the U.S. House of Representatives' proposed FY 2018 budget that the cuts may not be as austere as they were in President Donald Trump's proposal.
Nevertheless, higher ed administrators, particularly in the mid-tier public universities that have been so successful at promoting upward mobility, should continue to find ways to reach vulnerable students and assist them when they reach college. CUNY has invested in what is, by all accounts, a successful remedial program that is helping students stay on track to graduate, while an institution like Amarillo College has opened a new student center with services like a food pantry, tutoring center and clothing closet. The new center was the result of a data analysis that indicated much of the college's population were low-income and could flourish if they had access to such services. Schools should endeavor to make sure such services are there to be accessed on other campuses.