Saturday, December 02, 2006
The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star on Friday, Nov. 24:
It's not just the Harvards and Stanfords of the higher-education galaxy that look like stars out of reach for low-income and minority students.
Flagship public universities — the institutions that should be leading the crusade for equal opportunity — are pursuing admissions and financial aid policies that increasingly favor students from more privileged families.
"... at just the same moment when more low-income and minority youngsters are turning toward college, many colleges are turning away from them," The Education Trust, a group that promotes high academic achievement, said in a new report.
Declining state aid to colleges and universities has resulted in the schools raising tuition. Universities in turn have increased grant money to help students pay for college.
But as the report points out, wealthier students attending top public universities have benefited more from grant aid than have poorer students. In 2003, these universities gave $171 million to help students from families earning less than $20,000 a year. But they gave $257 million to families with incomes exceeding $100,000 a year.
The report correctly faults the eagerness of colleges to look good in various rankings. Lists such as those in U.S. News & World Report place a heavy emphasis on standardized test scores, which favor privileged students who have attended affluent schools and often benefited from tutoring, counseling and test-preparation courses.
The University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Kansas can point to gains in minority enrollment over the last few years. But the Education Trust report gave both universities a "D" in promoting opportunities for the neediest students.
Numerous reports have warned that talented students from low-income and minority families are being denied the college education of their dreams.
Flagship universities should be a place of hope. Instead of becoming more exclusionary, they must take the lead in reversing that trend.
(c) 2006, The Kansas City Star.
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