It’s Time to Give Low-Income Students a Real Shot at College Success
Colleges are simply not serving low-income students. That’s the message Harold O. Levy, a former chancellor of the New York City public schools and education technology investor, lays out clearly in his recent New York Times editorial, which he co-wrote with education journalist Peg Tyre.
Levy, who is open about his battle with ALS, says his diagnosis has given him a sense of urgency about the challenges facing America’s colleges and universities.
“Despite the best efforts of many, the gap between the numbers of rich and poor college graduates continues to grow,” he writes. Academically talented kids from households with income under $60,000 don’t stand much of a chance against kids who have been groomed—financially and opportunity-wise—for college since birth.
Although Levy makes clear that there is no easy fix, he has ideas for turning things around.
1. Alumni need to pay attention. When asked for donations, step up and ask the hard questions about how your school is helping to narrow the achievement gap.
2. Legacy admission must end. Though many schools favor legacy candidates hoping that they will increase donations, a 2011 study found virtually no impact of legacy donations on giving.
3. End favoritism for “demonstrated interest.” Not all families can afford a campus visit, and students shouldn’t be given an admissions advantage for making the trip.
4. Cities and states need to step in with programs that provide money for things like textbooks, and advising that fills in the gaps for low-income students.
5. Create more two-year associate degree programs in elite colleges, so that students have an opportunity to get their footing before moving on to a four-year degree.
6. Hire more high-school counselors to provide guidance to academically gifted kids. The current ratio—482 students to every counselor—isn’t giving kids the access they deserve to these important resources.
7. Consider making a donation to a college access program for low-income kids. It’s a small gesture, but it can make a big difference to a child in your community and beyond.