Where do America's wealthiest students go to college?
- A new infographic feature from The New York Times plots the enrollment breakdown of students from households earning more than $600,000 per year versus students from homes annually earning $65,000 or less.
- More than 70% of students coming from the nation's top 5% of wealth earning power attended Ivy League or elite institutions, while 38 of these schools enrolled more wealthy students from the top 1% than students from the lower 60% combined.
- The majority of students from homes making $65,000 or less are not enrolled in college or attend public institutions, leading some to question the access mission of the nation's most competitive colleges and universities.
The raw numbers may surprise many leaders but the culture of elite institutions recruiting, enrolling and retaining students from wealthy families should not be a stunning view of higher education. Older institutions branded by selectivity have an interest in grouping students with similar potential to finish degrees on time in competitive fields, and who will go on to earn a lot of money that soon, they will give back to the school. Less selective schools are driven by the service mission of granting access to those who might not otherwise receive higher education.
Both missions are noble and critical to developing industry and democracy at varying levels of influence and productivity. And given the history of resources, investment, political involvement, and marketing, there are few things which can be done to reverse these perceptions. But college leaders can begin to expose to the public the values of high-selectivity or open access, to better fit with the legislative and public perceptions of higher education in their regions.