Friday, May 02, 2008

Not naming class on campus

Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Department of Educational Leadership
Indiana State University

The April 24 Chronicle of Higher Education had an excellent article about class on campus, except they didn't call it that.

"Elite colleges have made headlines in recent years with financial-aid plans aimed at enrolling more low-income students. But despite those efforts, the proportion of financially needy undergraduates at the nation's wealthiest colleges and universities actually dropped between the 2004-5 and 2006-7 academic years, according to a Chronicle analysis of federal Pell Grant data."

Using my magic social class decoder ring this really says that class has become central to the distribution of financial aid in our elite colleges. This supports my idea that campuses are market segmented into luxury goods (highly selective elite colleges), mass market goods (state colleges, even those that think of themselves as selective and prestige), and discount goods (community colleges).

On January 19 the Chronicle ran an article "When Legacies Are a College's Lifeblood" that examined the recruiting efforts to attract the children of alumni to a campus. While the article did not look closely at the high prestige highly selective universities, it takes no stretch of the imagination to realize the practice of recruiting legacies is widespread. Whether or not President Bush met the admissions requirements for Yale, or was admitted because he was a legacy remains an open question.

This is not a conspiracy, this is just the way things are playing out to the disadvantage of the lower classes. Less financial aid for the poor, and more help for legacies is one way to understand how the college system works.

On the other hand, many colleges do an excellent job in recruiting and providing financial support (economic capital) for first generation students, and it should be noted that the increases in the cost of college go toward financial id and operations rather than faculty salaries.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

Oooh, where can I get my own magic social class decoder ring?!?

Thanks for this post--when I first heard that the elite colleges were dropping the tuition for low-income students and adding more financial aid, I was suspicious. I didn't think poor students would actually get anything out of this.