Thursday, April 12, 2018

Me too!

Despite the best efforts of many, the gap between the numbers of rich and poor college graduates continues to grow.
To which all I want to say is this: Duh!

In guarded and polite ways, I have on many occasions asked students over the years: My university awards BA degrees, and so do the flagship university, the university where I earned my PhD, and Harvard.  Are all these BAs the same?  If some BAs mean something more than other BAs do, well, what is the point of awarding those "lesser" BAs?

Of course, not all BAs are created equal; some are more equal than others.  The gap between the more-equal BA graduates and the less-equal BA graduates means that people will seek the more-equal BA, right?  Who are the children who end up at these more-equal colleges?
The wealthy spend tens of thousands each year on private school tuition or property taxes to ensure that their children attend schools that provide a rich, deep college preparatory curriculum. On top of that, many of them spend thousands more on application coaches, test-prep tutors and essay editors. They take their children on elaborate college tours so that their children can “find the right fit” at schools with good names and high graduation rates. Enrollment strategists at these same schools seek applicants from areas where the data they buy confirms that income levels and homeownership are high.
At the end of the day, "the odds against children who come from families earning the median income or less actually graduating from college seem to grow more formidable."
Creating a true meritocracy in higher education would require serious, politically daring changes to our housing policies and the tax code, neither of which seems likely in the current climate. Yet people of means (and I include myself here) are complicit in a system that seems unable to stop itself from extending privileges to the privileged.
Yep, the privileged group includes me too. 

Over the years, I have blogged a lot about these issues, and have even authored op-eds--like this one in 2009.  Yes, 2009.  In that op-ed, I wrote:
[While] it is a wonderful ideal that the sticker price of higher education should not prevent any Oregonian from pursuing knowledge, we ought to recognize that knowledge, like most things in life, has costs associated with it. ...
Thus, it is a no-brainer that when state governments decrease allocations for higher education, universities are then forced to suddenly increase tuition and fees — even if that were not in prior plans and even if it means disastrous public relations.  The lack of state funding has, therefore, resulted in the shifting of the cost burden onto students and families. ...
[If] dramatic reductions in state funding are now making it more expensive for students to attend public universities, what happens then to the original notion to ensure that Oregonians do not walk away from higher education because of lack of money?
In all the op-eds, however, I intentionally never raised the uncomfortable question that I have sometimes asked students: If some BAs mean something more than other BAs do, well, what is the point of awarding those "lesser" BAs?