Education’s Race to the Bottom (at the Top)

Colleges routinely boast about being “need blind” in admissions, meaning that they consider applicants without regard to their ability to pay. But even if they are need blind, and a new survey suggests they are, that may be very different from being an institution that any academically qualified student can actually attend.

That’s because only a small subset of colleges pledges to meet the full need of all students they admit. That means that for most institutions, “gapping” has become the norm. That’s when a college admits a student, tells her that she probably needs $X to afford to enroll, and then provides a package that is less than $X — sometimes considerably so.

Need Blind, but ‘Gapping’ : Scott Jaschik.

This is one of those perennial stories in which a no-doubt well-intentioned reported repeats the obvious: the less money you have, the more difficult it is to get into school. It’s like a little black spot on the bright star of American progress, and then it fades.

We just can’t see class, or rather, we can’t see ourselves as a class society, because that seems to imply that we are an unequal and so unjust society. I like this story, though, because it illustrates the roller coaster ride that goes with being a little too poor to afford college.

The real story about class and education, though, is not just that the vast majority of colleges ignore economic reality in their admissions programs, it also that president’s salaries are rising at record rates. So much so, in fact, that a few of them actually felt embarrassed.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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