Where the 1% go to college

Elite institutions lack economic diversity, study finds

New research challenges the argument, made by some elite colleges in recent years, that they have expanded access for low-income students in recent years, several contributors write for "The Upshot" blog at the New York Times.

The study comes from the Equality of Opportunity Project. Researchers analyzed the data behind the College Scorecard, which combined Department of Education data with federal tax records for the first time, to identify trends in college attendance and economic mobility.

Previously, the best data available on the topic came from government records related to Pell grants, "The Upshot" reports. The Obama administration expanded access to Pell grants in recent years, and the numbers of Pell-eligible students increased at elite colleges.

But the new research suggests that economic diversity at elite colleges has barely budged in the past decade. 

Build pathways for low-income students

Approximately four in 10 students from families in the top 0.1% of income distribution attend an Ivy League or similarly elite institution. That's about the same number of students from families in the bottom 20% of the income scale who attend college at all.

And 38 colleges enroll more students from the top 1% of the income scale than the bottom 60%.

Among highly selective institutions, those with the greatest proportions of students from low- and middle-income families are:

  • University of California, Los Angeles – 19.2%;
  • Emory University – 15.9%; and
  • Barnard College – 15.3%.

(Aisch et al., "The Upshot," New York Times, 1/18; The Equality of Opportunity Project site, accessed 1/23).

4 characteristics of successful outreach to low-income students


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