American colleges and universities are constantly working to diversify their student bodies (or at least appear to diversify on the cover of brochures). A new study finds that we have failed to do much at all to get poor people college educations, though.
The study, from the Pell Institute, examines who goes to college through the lens of family income brackets. The very short answer: wealthier people go to and graduate from college much more than poorer people—just as they have for decades. And we have failed to change this dynamic.
College enrollment itself has been on the rise for decades as well. About three quarters of college students are enrolled at public institutions. Over the past 25 years, the portion of K-12 students who are eligible for free lunch has grown significantly, to more than half now. From this we can conclude that a lot of public school students are poor. So how well are we doing at getting those poor kids into college? From the study:
The good news is that we are getting more poor kids into college than we did 40 years ago. Progress! The bad news is that there is still a 35 percentage point gap in college enrollment between the top and bottom income quartiles. Not enough progress!
There is much more in the report, but we can give you a cheat sheet version of how to mitigate this inequality: increase federal funding for educational aid. Or if you’re feeling real crazy it would help to make people less poor, in general.