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Education Books United States

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60 (nytimes.com) 314

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records. At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League -- Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown -- more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. From a report on the NYTimes (alternate non-paywall link): Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college -- universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of "elite" at the bottom). In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. "Free tuition only helps if you can get in," said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study.
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Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60

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  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:04PM (#53697385) Homepage Journal
    The "elite" schools, based on their reputation, generally only attract applicants who believe they can afford to go there. I had exceptional ACT/SAT scores but I was not interested in the financial burden of such schools so I went to a large public research university instead. However people who are living lifestyles that can afford such expenses will consider applying. It didn't matter in my case that there tuition assistance and financial aid; the cost gap at the time was still too enormous between podunk state and Yale to even consider bothering with an application.

    Even if the gap has reduced on the tuition level, the cost of living at those schools is still very very high and the students know that.
    • I agree your view a common held but problematic myth. There are many many things that can be improved about this nation. But collage affordability is not one of them. Speaking as someone who went to a tier II school which was more expensive than several of the Ivy's. No matter how poor you are you can afford to go to the best schools.

      I survived just fine entirety on scholarship, pell grants, student loans, and internship money. At times I was a bit hungry, but not tooo bad. It can be done.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        There are many many things that can be improved about this nation. But collage affordability is not one of them.

        Yes, one of those things is that people could learn to spell in primary school.

        Or does it really cost all that much to make a piece of art that is assembled from a variety of different forms?

    • For middle class folks (say around 100k household income) it's not worth the bother. You won't qualify for financial aid, yet it is as affordable as if you had zero income.
    • The top 1% own more mansions than the bottom 99% combined. The top 1% own more Ferrari cars than the bottom 99% combined. The top 1% go to the most expensive schools. Did you also know that the bottom 99% get more grants for education than the top 1% by 100%? How about the amount of "free" tuition from scholarships going to mostly the lower 90%? More assistance programs exist for the bottom 30% than the top 70%.

      There is no equality of opportunity at any level when discussing higher education. I don't

      • Did you also know that the bottom 99% get more grants for education than the top 1% by 100%?

        Does that mean that the top 1% get 1/3 of all grants for education? Or did you do your math wrong?

        • by s.petry ( 762400 )

          My comments on "Grants" are fact based, but perhaps a tiny bit of hyperbole. Tuition grants almost exclusively go to the bottom 99%. I could not find a case of a tuition grant going to someone someone wealthy. I mentioned the "tiny bit of hyperbole" here specifically because exceptions are quite possible. Me not being able to find a grant going to a wealthy kid indicates that they are rare, but not necessarily impossible.

          My first post referenced Scholarships separately because those cover everything fro

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I always thought the elite schools attracted people not for their education but for the benefits of their social connections to a lot of rich and well-connected people.

      What would Facebook be if Zuckerberg had instead gone to Purdue or Texas A&M instead of Harvard? How much of his success is due to the fact that he had access to a lot of rich and influential people?

      • Mostly this, but it's no guaranty and there are opportunities everywhere. A much larger factor is how well you can take advantage of them.
  • Endowments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:10PM (#53697419) Homepage Journal

    If the Endowment is large enough they can give every student free tuition. If there is no endowment, everybody pays. In the middle, they need enough people paying full-boat to subsidize the kids who need a full ride. Look at the economics before you assume ill intent. There is no magic money and locking kids into thirty years of debt is no magnanimous gesture.

    • by Falos ( 2905315 )
      Magnanimous? I would be wrong if I wrote the sentence "Student loans are for-profit." because they're predatory. When the peasants want to send their most earnest youth to aspire, they are prey.
    • Re:Endowments (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slew ( 2918 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @03:16PM (#53698103)

      If the Endowment is large enough they can give every student free tuition. If there is no endowment, everybody pays. In the middle, they need enough people paying full-boat to subsidize the kids who need a full ride. Look at the economics before you assume ill intent. There is no magic money and locking kids into thirty years of debt is no magnanimous gesture.

      The Endowment at most of these "elite" schools is enough to give every student free tuition. The reason they don't do it is that charging tuition (even if few pay the full amount) sets the "value" of the education in the minds of people. If say the local state university charges say $40K/year (e.g, UC-berkeley out-of state), a nearby university that want people to consider themselves "elite" will of course need to charge more (e.g., $47K/year Stanford), even though the "elite" university gives many people hefty discounts (e.g., Stanford waives 100% of tuition for students if their parents make less than $125K/year). Of course if *nobody* paid the full amount, then the tuition would be false advertising.

    • If the Endowment is large enough they can give every student free tuition.

      Don't think you understand how the top universities work. Tuition doesn't matter at all; all that matters is f you are connected enough to get in. They are "diverse" in ways that do not matter, but shun true diversity such as economic or political diversity.

  • So? (Score:4, Funny)

    by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:18PM (#53697503)
    What's the point of making it to the 1% if you can't send your kids to schools that others can't.
    • What's the point of making it to the 1% if you can't send your kids to schools that others can't.

      The joy of using, abusing and generally shitting all over the 99%?

    • More money? Better healthcare? Having everything you want? A butler named Jeeves.

  • by plague911 ( 1292006 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:19PM (#53697519)
    These school pride themselves on "diversity" or at least the "right kind" of diversity. They spend all their effort focusing on ethnic and gender diversity with almost no effort for economic or cultural diversity. This is what happens when the recruiters are generally nice, but low functioning collage graduates who could not find careers in their original field. They have their definition of diversity and do not expend any critical thinking skills trying to find where their ideas fall short of the stated goal of creating environment with diversity of thought. You end up with schools where people all look different but think the same.
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:19PM (#53697521)

    The far more relevant study would be to determine the earning potential after humans piss away four years and Ferrari money on an investment that isn't paying out these days.

    Of course, the Education Mafia selling college degrees wouldn't ever allow that kind of study to happen...

    • The far more relevant study would be to determine the earning potential after humans piss away four years and Ferrari money on an investment that isn't paying out these days.

      If you're going to do that study you also need to check the other scenario. What's the earning potential of those without college degrees. Oh you want to flip burgers for a living? You'll need at least a Bachelor degree for that nowadays.

    • by radl33t ( 900691 )
      University has a fairly good ROI, elite institutions especially. I'm open to data that suggest otherwise.
  • the top 1% can afford to send their kids to good private child care, elementary school, high school. This funnels them into top schools. I'd be interested to see how many of the 60% who are at elite private schools come from high schools with >80% "1%'ers". Is it largely the very gifted few who can despite poor circumstances get slots at private schools through programs like prep-for-prep that are going on to these colleges. Dan-el Padilla (princeton prof) is a great example of this. Is he the exceptio
  • hardly surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:23PM (#53697559)

    Kids from families with high incomes have significantly higher test scores [nytimes.com]; highly competitive universities will therefore overwhelmingly select from high-income families even if they exclusively select based on test scores. So, there is nothing particularly surprising about this result, nor does it demonstrate any kind of discrimination of selective colleges against low income kids.

    You can now debate about whether high income causes kids to have high test scores, i.e., if you only gave kids from poor families more money, they'd be doing just as well. That is true to some very limited degree: kids who lack essentials (food, clean water, etc.) are held back by that, but fixing those problems can't increase their intelligence beyond their potential.

    Most of the correlation is likely primarily caused by the fact that smart parents tend to have smart kids [wikipedia.org] (through a combination of nature and nurture), and that high test scores and high incomes simply result from that.

    • The work ethic and the value of education held by the parents is probably the largest determining factor.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @03:40PM (#53698305)

      For a regular school, particularly state school, then yes it gets stacked a lot by test scores and other academic indicators. The better you do academically, the more they are interested in you and the more money they'll try to give you to get you to attend.

      However the "elite" schools have a whole bunch of good old boy shit going on. If you look at admissions in to places like Harvard you find that there are some legitimately top performers who come in, but a whole lot who are not and are instead connected some way. They are kids of alums, politically connected, rich, whatever. They are the "right kind of people" and so get the invite.

      That's also the reason why parents want kids to go there is the connections. You don't get a better education at Harvard overall. Any university with a good program will do at least as well, and in plenty of disciplines there are schools ranked far better. However it further gets you in to the old boys club and gets you connections to people that gets your opportunities that would not otherwise be available later in life.

  • I read one story when applicants for the Harvard Law School buy expensive cars to make themselves look "poor" to qualify for financial aid. If you're attending the Harvard Law School and don't have an expensive car, you're doing it wrong. No wonder the U.S. is screwed up.
    • by Dthief ( 1700318 )
      what does that even mean? can you share this story you read?
      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        what does that even mean? can you share this story you read?

        If you have $30,000+ in savings, it will count against you for financial aid because you have money in the bank. If you spend that $30,000+ on an expensive car and then applied for financial aid, you will qualify for financial aid because you have nothing in the bank. Financial aid officers don't take the value of a car into consideration. I think I read that story in "One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School" by Scott Turow.

  • Not a surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:33PM (#53697655)

    If you're among the 1-percenters' offspring whose parents either went to these elite institutions or can afford to donate something substantial to get you in, why is it surprising that elite schools have more well-off students? There will always be efforts by the institutions in the form of scholarships and flexible admissions practices to diversify the student body, but the top colleges are definitely a pay-to-play operation.

    There's basically 4 factors that determine where you end up in life -- how smart or successful your parents are, how wealthy they are, how much raw potential you have, and usually a whole lot of dumb luck. Smart or successful parents can afford to live in a good school district and provide a stable environment for their kids. Really rich parents can buy their way into the elite prep school track. Really smart students can often succeed enough to overcome a bad environment. Anyone can get lucky and just have things sort of work out for them. In my case, it was a combination of a good home life and a lot of right place/right time luck. I wasn't a good enough student to be in the scholarship bucket, and my parents weren't rich, but I did go to a decent K-12 school system and had involved parents who kicked my butt enough to do reasonably well. My dumb luck was getting a part time job doing tech support for the state university I went to, eventually doing it just short of full time, and using that to get my foot in the door at my first IT job.

    The reason the elite schools will always have the lock on the 1% crowd is that once you're in, regardless of how you got there, you don't have to rely on luck. It starts with non-religious elite private schools. If your family can afford college level tuition for a K-12 education, there's a tacit agreement that one of the elite universities will have a spot for you. (Seriously, one school near us charges almost $40K for grade school tuition, but it's in the top 15 or so among elite boarding schools.) If you can get into and graduate from a Harvard, Yale, Princeton or similar, the school and its alumni network will not let you fail. White-shoe management consulting firms exclusively hire from the elite universities, and that's probably one of the most lucrative jobs a new graduate can have. The same goes for investment banking -- going from being a broke college student to making $250K a year is a big change. People who work for investment banks, management consulting firms and other similar employees mysteriously tend to wind up in very lucrative positions at their clients eventually, and the old boys'/old girls' network perpetuates.

    This is why I feel states need to invest in public universities. It's basically the only lever the non-elite among us have to get ourselves to a better situation. If you're not smart enough or have a unique enough situation to get a full scholarship to a private university, your best bet in most states is to go to a big public college and milk your time there for all it's worth. I'm socking away money for my kids' college education, but unless they turn out to be absolute geniuses this is going to be the advice I give them too. Life may be a matter of who you know or dumb luck sometimes, but it never hurts to increase your chances. If you work hard and have a good run of luck, it is still possible to at least be comfortable. We'll see what the future holds though.

    • Re:Not a surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:49PM (#53697827)

      White-shoe management consulting firms exclusively hire from the elite universities, .... going from being a broke college student to making $250K a year is a big change.

      What is this 'broke college student' you speak of? The elites are a bunch of drunken frat boys with daddy's American Express Centurion credit card.

      It comes down to value for the hiring organization once you get out of school. Consultancies and investment banks value the networking connections that elite college graduates bring with them. Because these businesses add very little actual value to their product, other than the stamp of approval of their name on otherwise obvious advice. Businesses that are more value added tend not to hire from elite colleges as much. Because the cost of these graduates doesn't make up for the small (if any) increase in their productivity.

    • It starts with non-religious elite private schools. If your family can afford college level tuition for a K-12 education, there's a tacit agreement that one of the elite universities will have a spot for you. (Seriously, one school near us charges almost $40K for grade school tuition, but it's in the top 15 or so among elite boarding schools.) If you can get into and graduate from a Harvard, Yale, Princeton or similar, the school and its alumni network will not let you fail.

      I've noticed something along this line as well having gotten to know one of my son's friends and his family over the last year or so. From outwards appearances he fits the stereotype of the black kid who is destine to fail. His mom, baby sister, himself, and a couple of cousins live at grandma's house, little sister has a different father than him, and neither dad is around. In actuality he is a really smart kid but hasn't been afforded many opportunities to learn anything other than what is taught at publi

  • In other shocking news, it was reported that the top 1% own more Ferraris than the entire bottom 99% combined! How unfair!

    • Top 1% must spend more time with their car in the shop then. Never understood why anyone would buy a car that is notorious for breaking down every few hundred miles.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.unz.com/runz/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/

    captcha: sonata

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @02:43PM (#53697767) Journal

    News flash: NOT EVERYONE DESERVES OR IS ENTITLED TO COLLEGE.

    What's next, reporting that "Mercedes drivers are more likely to be from the 1% than the lowest 60%"

    • I don't think anyone is saying everyone should go to college. What they're saying is, who your parents are, and how much money they have, should not decide whether you have the right to a quality education or not.

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @03:04PM (#53697977)

      News flash: NOT EVERYONE DESERVES OR IS ENTITLED TO COLLEGE.

      I hear what you're saying, but for all the wrong reasons. These days people entitled to college are those with money, not those with intelligence.

  • The study basically concluded that the name of the university on your diploma matters a lot and an argument can be made that if desperately poor people can get into expensive top schools and run up mountains of debt, the odds are in their favor that they'll earn more than people who went to cheaper universities. This whole debate about the disadvantages poor applicants have is beside the point.
  • by dyslexicbunny ( 940925 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @03:20PM (#53698147)

    No one is surprised that kids from wealthier means do better in school. This is well documented. What's the performance gap between the bottom 60% and the top 1% kids? If the gap is sizable, let's look towards correcting that. If the gap in performance is negligible, then I'm going to get more interested in these findings.

"It's when they say 2 + 2 = 5 that I begin to argue." -- Eric Pepke

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