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Education The Almighty Buck

How Colleges Are Pushing Out the Poor To Court the Rich 668

An anonymous reader writes "A change from 'need' based financial aid to a 'merit' based system coupled with a 'high tuition, high aid,' model is making it harder for poor students to afford college. According to The Atlantic: 'Sometimes, colleges (and states) really are just competing to outbid each other on star students. But there are also economic incentives at play, particularly for small, endowment-poor institutions. "After all," Burd writes, "it's more profitable for schools to provide four scholarships of $5,000 each to induce affluent students who will be able to pay the balance than it is to provide a single $20,000 grant to one low-income student." The study notes that, according to the Department of Education's most recent study, 19 percent of undergrads at four-year colleges received merit aid despite scoring under 700 on the SAT. Their only merit, in some cases, might well have been mom and dad's bank account.'"
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How Colleges Are Pushing Out the Poor To Court the Rich

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  • Goodbye (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gagol ( 583737 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:21PM (#43704875)
    Social mobility. Welcome Feudalism 2.0
    • Re:Goodbye (Score:5, Funny)

      by lister king of smeg ( 2481612 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:27PM (#43704913)

      feudalism 3.11 for workgroups

    • Re:Goodbye (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:47PM (#43705029) Journal

      Yep, got a nephew that is gonna end up having to drop out of college halfway through because he can't get the aid to finish even though he has high marks while the same school trips over themselves to court these third and fourth generation money kids that can just fuck off for four years for all they care, they'll have a diploma and a cushy job waiting at daddy's firm when they get out. He is gonna end up buried in 37k of debt without even a piece of paper, damned shame is what it is, poor kid worked his ass off and got screwed..

      George Carlin said it best "Its called the American Dream...because you have to be asleep to believe in it"

      • Re:Goodbye (Score:5, Informative)

        by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @08:05PM (#43705135) Journal

        Fun question here... how is your nephew going to school, and where?

        I've known folks who paid their own way through school, who got their Bachelors' 8 years after they started, but they paid their own way along, CLEP'd out of the drudge-work classes, used the GI Bill, used employer-sponsored tuition reimbursements, got their undergrad at the local (read: cheaper) community college but their BS at the state uni, etc.

        There's the traditional (and IMHO stupid) way of doing college, and then there's the smart way to do it. Do it traditional, and (sadly) prepare for the consequences.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It is no longer possible to work your way through most University programs if you work for minimum wage.

          I get in-state tuition, and the total cost of my living expenses and tuition is more than 25,000 dollars a year. If you allocate 30 hours per week for studies and find a way to work 40 hours a week at $8.25 an hour, you would only earn $17,490.

          That leaves more than two thousand dollars per year. Now, one could realistically borrow this money, but who would lend it? I have a friend who was offered 13% inte

          • Re:Goodbye (Score:5, Informative)

            by ranton ( 36917 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @10:38PM (#43706047)

            That leaves more than two thousand dollars per year. Now, one could realistically borrow this money, but who would lend it? I have a friend who was offered 13% interest. Fuck that bank.

            Anyone can get $57,500 in student loans from Stafford loans. Since it cannot be discharged, you can get it even if you declared bankruptcy yesterday. The subsidized portion is 3.4% interest and the unsubsidized portion is 6.8% (not 13%). In this case you only have to make $10k per year; $8k if you spend your first two years in community college. Even if you do have to take out the full amount, your after college income only has to be about $6k/yr more to account for your $300k monthly college loan payment.

          • by khallow ( 566160 )

            and the total cost of my living expenses and tuition is more than 25,000 dollars a year

            You can do better. Community college for two years for starters. And there are cheaper colleges than your in-state university.

            And I'll just note that if college is too expensive for you now, then don't go. Work a few years and build up some savings. Sure, you might have done something (like have kids) which screws up your college plans, but so does dropping out of college with a lot of debt.

          • You were never able to work your way through school in the way you describe.

            The way you work your way through school, and I did this at about minimum wage for the first part, is you go to an inexpensive school, typically a community college. You take your courses at the rate you can afford. Then you get your associates degree and use it to get a job that pays a bit more. If you are lucky you will get in at a company that has a tuition assistance program. You then go to a reasonably priced state school part

        • Re:Goodbye (Score:5, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:01PM (#43706185) Journal

          Sorry friend but you can't just do that anymore, you can't even keep gas in your car with a minimum wage job as they won't let you get full time hours anymore, he looked at the GI Bill but considering how they have refused to let soldiers leave when their enlistment is up? No thanks, not to mention his grandma is getting up there in years and her health is declining and if my mom passed on while he was overseas he would be devastated, and its pretty much just the one college here as the only other one in the state is a 120 mile round trip which again, gas prices.

          So its all well and good you got lucky by being born at the right time but...that America? Really doesn't exist now, being 19 today is a hell of a lot different than being 19 then, nobody will give you full time hours, jobs are scarce, there just isn't any real paying jobs to be had. Hell I've had 3 guys, including one in his 50s bless his heart, trying to get the job mowing my mother's lawn, things are THAT bad now friend.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Still possible to work your way through school in NYS... source [].

            We may have some of the highest taxes in the country but things like this is what it goes towards. There's also the Tuition Assistance Program (additional financial aid) and things like the Education Opportunity Program for students of low income households.

            It can be made even cheaper by living at home (subtract room and board cost). Hopefully home is near a city (not necessarily *the* city, there's SUNYs everywhere). If not, that's simply

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by davydagger ( 2566757 )
            "he looked at the GI Bill but considering how they have refused to let soldiers leave when their enlistment is up?"

            What? That is a lie.
      • He is gonna end up buried in 37k of debt without even a piece of paper, damned shame is what it is, poor kid worked his ass off and got screwed..

        How did that happen? The average for 4 year public schools is $13,600 a year. A part time job and a summer job could put a pretty huge dent in $13,600 a year. Note this figure includes room and board. []

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          A part time job and a summer job could put a pretty huge dent in $13,600 a year.

          In the year 2013 during the worst economic times the US has seen in many decades:

          1. Those jobs are very hard to come by. Just look at the unemployment rate for kids from 18-24. [] Just saying that they need to get the gumption and get a job doesn't reflect the reality of what kids have to deal with today.

          2. You wouldn't even make close enough to put a ding in those expenses let alone a dent.

          3. Average what? Tuition? Books will take up Summer earnings and colleges love adding all these other fees.

          4. Unless you'

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @10:29PM (#43705991)

            5. In this day and age, kids are competing with people from all over the World. A GPA less than 3.5/4.0 means you are going to have a hard time getting employed. Compared to back in my day, just graduating with a 3.0 meant you were golden.

            I've never had a job ask me my GPA. Despite all the wording otherwise, aside from college admissions, my high school grades have never come up ever again. And, true to lower school experience, my grades in college never came up. The only time someone could have argued they mattered is when I went back for a masters, and even then, it was solely an issue of seeing if I completed my undergrad, not with what grades. My test scores have always been in the high 90-something percent, so maybe it matters more for the 50%ers, but for me, I know that nobody ever cared about my grades.

            • by RubberChainsaw ( 669667 ) on Monday May 13, 2013 @03:55AM (#43707635)
              GPA does definitely matter, especially for continuing one's education. A very close friend of mine desires more than anything to become a practicing physical therapist. Unfortunately, her undergrad grades are quite poor. During her undergraduate work, she thought (like you espouse) that GPA was not important. Her GREs are middling, and due to her GPA, no medical school is giving her a chance. It is rejection letter after rejection letter. I actually admire her tenacity. Its been more than two years and she is still applying and searching for a way to achieve her goal.
          • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Monday May 13, 2013 @02:57AM (#43707425)

            I am in college now, and familiar with tuition costs. Right now, a Va resident can attend basically any college in Va for ~ 10k / year. Thats tuition, books MIGHT add another 1-2k, but you can generally rent books for $50/class x 4 classes x 2 semesters.

            Yes, if you cant cover that, you dont have the gumption. Sorry.

            And I love how the headline demonizes merit based aid. Oh the horrors.

        • Dude I've had guys in their 50s stop by my mom's house just trying to get the job mowing her lawn, you have NO idea how fucking BAD things are out there right now, I've known people that have abandoned their homes and are living on a relatives couch 4 states away just hoping its better there than it is here, and while you might find a school at the price you named it sure as hell isn't here, there is only the private college and if you can't go there its a 150 mile round trip to go to State U. and a shithol

    • Re:Goodbye (Score:5, Insightful)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:51PM (#43705045) Homepage Journal

      But you wanted it, your entire ideology is based on destroying equality under law.

      Your entire ideology requires to discriminate against some to provide subsidy to others, this is just a tide going the other way, you have pushed and pushed and you have gotten now what you inevitably pushed towards - inflation, lack of productivity, lack of personal responsibility and lack of individual initiative.

      The government creates the moral hazard of fake loans that nobody in their sound mind would EVER give you out of their savings to go 'study' sociology, philosophy, literature. There was a story earlier in the day on this site about an employer not interested in these graduates, they are not worth the time, they have huge debts and they have proven themselves to be incapable of not following the crowd, they have proven to be lemmings.

      Obama's new 'Pay as you Earn' idea is going to change the way people pay back loans, no more the loan payment will be tied to the actual loan amount, now it will be tied to your yearly earnings, so it will make sense to rack up the biggest debt you can and stay in college as long as you possibly can stretch, and then find a low enough paying job so that you won't be repaying too much. In 10 years the remainder of your loan is forgiven, and so colleges will raise tuition faster than ever before in history, I even fully expect to see doubling of tuition in a single year. Why not, you are not paying for it, you are not price sensitive.

      It's a bail out, it's inflation. Elizabeth Warren wants to push interest rates for student loans to be the same as the rate the affiliate banks get at the Fed's discount window.

      Good politics, I am sure 99% of you will agree and 99% of you want that to happen. Of-course it's terrible economics, the banks should not be getting that free money, that's inflation.

      Of-course the banks are getting it from the Fed so that they can turn around and buy US Treasuries, to maintain the artificially low interest rates, to maintain the ability of the gov't to spend on your bankrupt social and military programs. The Fed also wants the banks not to fail for as long as they can stretch it, so the banks make the spread between the Fed's discount rate and the Treasury yield, a couple of percent, nothing fancy.

      Except that it's over 2Trillion a year not counting the new 85Billion a month in just mortgages and refinancing. The Fed wants to reinflate the housing market, they are somewhat successful. The banks use these 'record profits' to inflate the bond and the stock market, stock market is record high.

      Guess what, Warren's plan will make college tuition record high for the same reason that the stock and bond markets are high: inflation. Enormous inflation.

      But her bill won't pass, however Obama's plan will and so don't worry, you'll be able to rack up all the debt you want and never have to repay it, just pay a little bit over 10 years. Of-course what are you going to pay it from? Who is going to hire these sociology and ethnic studies majors?

      PhDs are going to wash floors in McDonalds.

      Yes, it's the new feudalism, the politicians, your gov't, the bankers that are part of it are the feudals and you are the useful idiots.


      Now go ahead, this comment only has one way to go.

      • Re:Goodbye (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gagol ( 583737 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @08:01PM (#43705105)
        I do not live in the US. I live in a "socialist" country, and we are doing very well, thank you. Economic crisis. which economic crisis?
  • Q&A (Score:3, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:25PM (#43704899)

    How Colleges Are Pushing Out the Poor To Court the Rich

    It might have something to do with making it too expensive for the poor. Just a thought...

  • by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:26PM (#43704905)
    For instance, if your parents make less than $65k/year (approx. 150% median U.S. household income, or 300% the cutoff for "poverty level") you can attend Harvard for free. Assuming you can get in. Which, in the grand scheme of things, sort of makes it a "merit based" scholarship after all.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:35PM (#43704957)

      Assuming you can get in, you say?

      Not exactly as easy as it sounds when the portion of your application involving your grades is a very small part of whether or not you get accepted. Most top colleges these days are obsessed with students that show profound personal initiative and social engagement, which are both activities that cost money. They do not currently "compensate" for the extra advantages a wealthy student has in the application process. Added to the emphasis on alumni connections (oh hi MIT) you might as well flush the application fee down the toilet.

      • by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:54PM (#43705067)
        They (elite schools) seem to be locating and successfully recruiting the lion's share of low-income high-ability students. At least if this article [] is to be believed:

        Low-income high-achieving students at these schools have close to 100 percent odds of attending an Ivy League school or other highly selective college...

        "These schools" are "from 15 large metropolitan areas. These areas often have highly regarded public high schools, such as in New York City or in the Washington, D.C., area." It's the 30% of low-income high-ability students outside those metro areas that aren't heading to elite universities. Harvard also claims [] that 20% of its class falls under the $65k/year threshold and therefore pays nothing.

    • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:47PM (#43705027)

      The problem here is that most families with $65k have no idea how to turn their 90th percentile kid into the kind of kid who gets into Harvard. They don't know about "SAT Coaches," don't know which extracurricular activities to push, don't have friends who can donate massive amounts to the orphanage little darling just founded in Kenya, etc. If one parent makes $150k, the other makes $60k, and their friends all work at Hedge Funds, it's really easy to look great on a college application.

      More importantly they generally don't know that Harvard will be free for their kid. They see the Harvard name, they see the price tag in USNews is astronomical, maybe they google the actual tuition charges of roughly $37k, and instead of pushing their kid to apply to Harvard and spend $0 they push him to apply to [cheap state school] and spend $10,000 or so a year.

      There was recently on article on three Latina friends from a small city in Texas. The one who went to Emory had loans, but that was because as a teenager she didn't understand all the paperwork requirements needed to get aid. Her family had nobody who had ever gone to a school like Emory, so they couldn't help very well.

      • I'm not saying more wealthy families don't have advantages. They do. But Harvard is somehow managing to fill 20% of its class w/ kids whose families fall under the $65k/year threshold. So some of these families, at least, are doing "what it takes" to get into Harvard.
  • College used to be a place for the rich to put there kids whiles others went to the trades / tech schools or just had on the job training (the rich part dates back to middle ages).

    Also some people went to college mainly for sports and not so much to learn.

    We need to stop this idea of college for all and give trades / tech schools more respect and / or cut them out of the collgle time frames / credits systems.

    Some colleges over the years have dumbed down and stated to let anyone as long as they can pay or ge

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:36PM (#43704961)

    You have to be seriously deluded to believe the problem with American Universities is too many merit scholarships. I normally like the Atlantic but this is easily the dumbest thing I've read in print this year.

    My high school graduation had 2 national merit scholarships awarded to "Home Economics"-grade Valedictorians. The remainder of the graduating class was divided in to two groups of people: the kids with poor or divorced parents that could manipulate their FAFSA to look shit poor, and everyone with an EFC higher than the families take home pay after groceries and gasoline.

    The kids lucky enough to be born to crack head parents got free rides. The kids from the middle class got yoked with private student loans or didn't get to go to school at all. Grades had NOTHING to do with it.

    -If you had a pulse and your mom was a pack of cigarettes from turning tricks: Harvard.
    -If you could program an FPGA to run the Attitude Control System on a pico-satellite, you may get a $1000 check if you wrote a 20 page essay on why GWB was the best president in history.

    I delayed my Freshman year until I was 22 just so I could get my parents off my FAFSA only to have those pig fuckers raise the age to 24 on my 21st birthday.

    Fuck FAFSA, fuck The Atlantic for publishing this drivel, and fuck Slashdot for legitimizing it.

  • In capitalism... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elloGov ( 1217998 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:44PM (#43705011)
    Wealth and Power are compounding, always siphoning to the top. Unless you place restrictions, i.e. socialist policy, it's only a matter of time before serfdom ensues, It's no coincidence that 80% of the wealth created over the past two decades have gone to the top 1% of the population. Remember the dream of being millionaires in the 90s? Nowadays, billion is the dream. Yes, inflation over time is real, however it doesn't warrant an increase of 10^3 magnitude.
  • fact check? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Artifex ( 18308 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:56PM (#43705077) Journal

    The study notes that, according to the Department of Education's most recent study, 19 percent of undergrads at four-year colleges received merit aid despite scoring under 700 on the SAT. Their only merit, in some cases, might well have been mom and dad's bank account.

    The study doesn't actually say that, at least not according to the chart on page 4 []. It says that 18.8% of the students in college who had scores of 0-699 got merit aid. Not that 18.8% of all the students in college received aid with such low scores.

  • by RaccoonBandit ( 2597025 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @08:21PM (#43705227)

    The article mentioned South Carolina as one of the states where public universities are affected. I have taught physics courses at a large SC school and at the end of the semester there is the usual rush of emails from your students telling you that they deserve a higher grade than they got, contrary to all the evidence of their lack of ability and effort. Well, maybe they should have thought about that earlier and actually cared about doing work for the class.

    Among them there are also always some who say "If I don't get a B in this class, then I lose my scholarship" (sorry guys, grades are not given out according to personal need). Several such students every semester. And I wonder, how did these students ever get a scholarship in the first place given their highly mediocre academic ability?

    Now it all makes sense.

  • Merit 'vs' Money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OhANameWhatName ( 2688401 ) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @09:04PM (#43705441)
    Nobody seems to focus on the real problem here, talent isn't genetically inherited.

    Let's take Bill Gates as an example. He's been incredibly successful. Will his son follow in his footsteps? That's unlikely. But his children end up getting the best support, the best education and the best opportunities. Meanwhile, Manny at the local grocery store has a son Terry whom is as talented as Bill Gates. Terry doesn't get the opportunities of Bill's son so winds up becoming a street corner entrepeneur. By the time he's 20, Terry owns 3 crack houses, 4 brothels, is driving massive demand for international trade, has a workforce of 300 people and is a multi-millionaire.

    Terry is just using his gifts in the best way he can, and because he's so damned smart .. he accomplishes amazing things and doesn't end up in jail. The end result is that society is less rich for not encouraging Terry's gifts. It's not that the rich are taking the education spots, it's that society doesn't recognise and encourage the gifts of individuals. Bill's son might be the greatest basket weaver in human history, he's just never going to weave a basket.

    The education system forces people into boxes and tries to shoe-horn them into positions which fit with our current identification of what society represents. What society should represent should be driven by the individual drives of the people expanding it's boundaries, not by limiting the range of education to fit into a social model which has never not been broken. It's not about the money, it's more fundamental than that.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry