The elite campus of the United States is surrounded by greenery, and the new semester is about to begin, but it is still a privileged place. Although top colleges and universities promise to admit more poor students, the actual admission rate is no different from that of the previous generation. Now, there are many poor students with excellent grades in high school—the proportion is twice that of top universities.

The federal government tracked elite universities from the 1990s to 2012, and the results showed that the admission rate of poor students hardly changed—the difference was less than 15%—although the overall number of poor students going to college increased. Another similar survey tracks well-funded top universities, with similar conclusions. At present, the affirmative movement based on race has lost support in the judicial system and public opinion. Therefore, many people call on elite colleges and universities to pay attention to the "diversified economic conditions" of students.

One of the considerations is that if students go to a good university, their chances of graduation can increase and they are more likely to become leaders in all walks of life. Students from low-income families enter elite universities, which is seen as a major driving force for social mobility.

However, Anthony P. Carneville, director of the Center for Education and Workforce Studies at Georgetown University, said: "Higher education has become a tool to consolidate privileges and inherit from generation to generation."

It is true that the admission rate of poor students in some universities is slowly increasing. Some studies have shown that although universities are willing to recruit poor students, they actually do not have the ability to ensure diversified economic conditions. University administrators also pointed out that studies have shown that most high-achieving students from poor families have not submitted applications to elite universities.

But critics point out that, in general, elite universities are unwilling to diversify students' economic conditions because they are concerned about their own financial problems and university rankings.

"I don't think every university has this idea," said Richard D. Cullenberg, a senior researcher at the Century Foundation. "What if all poor students really apply to elite universities? Will the door be open to them? ?"

Some elite universities, whether public or private, can enroll twice as many Pell scholarships (federal government subsidies for poor students) than other schools. Critics claim that this shows that other universities still have room for improvement. Vassar College, Amherst College, Harvard University, and the University of California system have all increased the admission rate of poor students.

"A lot of things are for money, because every time you recruit a poor student, you have to pay out a subsidy." Michael N. Bastedo, director of the University of Michigan Higher Education Research Center, said, "No one will say publicly, They are interested in recruiting poor students, but the admissions process is very complicated. They know the price of each student in their hearts."


The university rankings of "US News and World Report" are also one of the factors considered. Funds for campus facilities and teachers can affect rankings, while poverty subsidies and the diversification of students' economic conditions have little attention.

"University presidents must work hard to achieve a balanced budget, increase graduation rate, and improve the ranking of the school." Carneville said, "The easiest way is to trace the source of funding-recruit students who can afford tuition."

One of the methods is the so-called "merit aid" (merit aid), which does not consider the student's family background. There are dozens of top universities that do not follow this standard, but they are a minority. In general, American universities used to provide subsidies based on the needs of students, but now they are based on student talent.

Since the late 1990s, top universities have issued some high-profile measures to attract more students from low- and middle-income families. These policies have caused widespread media coverage, but studies have shown that the ultimate effect is mediocre because the poor do not know this information.

Later, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cancelled early admission procedures that benefited students from wealthy families. Some schools no longer use tuition loans, but directly subsidize students in the form of grants. Some schools have reduced tuition for low- and middle-income families, for example, the annual family income of 6.5 US dollars.

But those universities that cancelled early admissions restored them a few years later. Other elite universities refuse to cancel early admissions in order to ensure the admission of high school students with excellent grades. The preferential policies of zero loans and zero tuition mainly help middle-income families, while some of the richest universities, such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Stanford, have not implemented both policies at the same time.

According to researchers from the University of Michigan and Georgetown University, in 2006, among the 82 “most competitive” universities listed in the Introduction to Barron’s American University, 14% of U.S. undergraduates came from families below the average income. . Compared with the 1982 data, there is no improvement.


Even with good wishes, it is still not easy to recruit good students from poor families. Studies have shown that there are many reasons why high-achieving students from poor families do not apply for good schools: lack of family and high school support, (mistake) thinking that they cannot afford tuition, cannot keep up with their studies, and cannot adapt to the elite environment.

A research report last year suggested that the difference between the probability of applying for an elite university is not the student’s family background or the parent’s educational background, but the place. If there are a few excellent students around, or the high school implements small-class education, or the previous senior has passed the entrance to a good university, these factors will affect the image of poor high school students’ choice.

Face to face is also a factor.

"Maybe you have good admissions conditions, but you still can't recruit good poor students, because you can't find them." said Catherine Bond Hill, president of Vassar University. "You must be determined to go out and go to high school. Looking for talent."

But the staff in charge of admissions can only visit a very small part of the 2.6 high schools in the United States, so they can't find those silent talents. Some universities that have successfully increased the admission rate of poor students claim that it is a good way to cooperate with non-profit organizations such as Quest Bridge and Posse Foundation. These non-profit organizations are responsible for identifying the qualifications of high school students, and then contacting high schools and universities to act as intermediaries.

Many universities may not be able to afford it, and are unwilling or unable to recruit so many poor students. "Last year, the 1.5 students we selected ended up with only 680 places." Posse Foundation Chairman Deborah Bayer said, "Our quota this year can be expanded to three times the original number." Bayer's institution currently has 51 partner institutions. school.

21-year-old Troy Simon said that without the help of two non-profit organizations, he would definitely not be able to attend Bard University. He was born in a poverty-stricken area of ​​New Orleans, had a rough childhood, and had to repeat grades in school. His story was cited by Michelle Obama as an example. "I couldn't read when I was a kid," he said, "wandering around in the classroom, and no one at home cares about your grades."

His house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He was separated from his family and lived in an abandoned building with a few uncles in desperation. He once spent some time in a school in Houston. He told the teachers in Houston that he had only begun to read when he was 12 years old. After returning to New Orleans, he was arrested on suspicion of theft.

He went to three high schools, one of which was called "College Track" (College Track) accepted him and provided course counseling, special review, life counseling, and university entrance guide. Later, he got a scholarship provided by the Posse Foundation, which allowed him to avoid college tuition and get other help in life.

"Many of my playmates when I was young were very smart, but some died long ago, some went to jail, and some gave birth to several children and couldn't afford it." He said, "I feel so lucky."

10 to 15 years ago, some elite universities began to pay attention to the diversification of students' economic conditions. At that time, there was a belief that increasing the amount of financial assistance would be done once and for all. Morton O. Schapiro, the president of Northwestern University, said, "We were all a little too naive." Scarpiro was the president of Williams College and the president of Vassar College. Like Dr. Er, he is also an economics expert in the higher education industry.

Scarpiro said that financial burden is one thing, and personal perceptions are also a major obstacle. "This is a psychological and sociological effect. Everyone will consider whether college is worth it."

University presidents like to say that consumers should not be intimidated by the annual tuition fees of top universities of around $6. But the national public opinion is concerned about this number. The hidden economic costs behind it are even more difficult to quantify or compare, and different schools vary greatly.

Public schools are relatively cheaper, but the support of the state governments is now declining. Therefore, the tuition fees of public universities are now rising faster than private universities. Each state is also very different. Since the 21st century, private universities have substantially increased their subsidies to poor students. Therefore, excluding price factors, the burden of private university students has hardly increased in the past decade-for poor students, the burden has actually been reduced.

Two private universities may have similar tuition prices, but the actual cost of going to school is very different. Some parents of students may find college to be extremely expensive, while others find that their children don't need to spend much. According to data from the US Department of Education, in the 2011-12 academic year, students from families with an annual income of less than US$4.8 at Harvard University actually paid less than US$4000 in tuition on average. Harvard is the highest-funded university in the United States. And New York University students need to pay an average of $2.7.

Most consumers have no idea about the complexity of the higher education industry.

"If no one in your family or community has gone to a good university, then you will never know that there is that possibility in life." said Anthony W. Marks, director of the New York Public Library. He served as the principal of Amherst College. Max said: "If you go to the university's official website, the first thing you will see is the tuition fees. Then you go to sleep."

"New York Times"