Being Poor at America’s Rich Colleges

“… while poor kids are underrepresented on elite campuses, the wealthiest kids are overrepresented. At Harvard, 45.6% of undergraduates come from families with incomes above $200,000 — in other words, incomes in the top 3.8% of all American households.” 

For all the lip service to being schools that are open and welcoming to all students, many institutions like Harvard are still recruiting, admitting, and educating the nation’s wealthiest students.

Forbes author Maggie McGrath tackles a challenging topic in this article that examines the experiences of middle and lower-income students who find themselves in some of the privileged worlds of American higher education. They have the brains, motivation and toughness to succeed, but sometimes their backgrounds set them apart from their wealthy peers. I remember when I was a student at Dartmouth, wealth wasn’t always in your face, but if you thought about the fact that only about 50% of students receive financial aid, it meant that the other half of the students had families that could pay the $53,000+ a year with cold hard cash. I think there was even a discount for families that could pay the entire tuition in a lump sum. My parents were certainly not in that category.

While I applaud elite, highly selective universities and colleges for opening up their doors to low income, first generation students in order to diversify their campuses, it’s not enough just to admit the students. Faculty members are not always adept to deal with students from different backgrounds, making assumptions of students and families that can be harmful. There must be support systems in place for these students who are at times out of their comfort zone, especially in campuses were talking about wealth, money, and family background can be taboo. It’s great that schools like Stanford have invested in creating offices where students can learn about others and share experiences that they don’t feel completely isolated on a campus that seeps wealth and everyone has a seemingly carefree attitude. Many students from low income backgrounds have faced challenges in high school and beyond, but had mentors or community based organizations that supported them to be admitted to their highly selective schools. Universities need to ensure that the support continues throughout the undergraduate years to ensure that students don’t drop out. One of the best ways is to create mentoring networks of students from similar backgrounds: 1) to show that there is a community of students like them, and 2) to teach younger students how to navigate semi-adulthood while succeeding academically.

“… take it from someone who’s still navigating this often tricky terrain. Harvard’s Christian Ramirez remembers feeling alone as a low-income student at an Ivy League institution at first, but slowly realizing there were many other students like him and it was okay to ask one of them, or an administrator, for help.” 

 Did you face isolation as a student because it was taboo discuss money on your campus? Write to asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com to share your story!Widener-Pic

 

 

 

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History of the Admissions Application

Today I’m sharing and interesting piece from the NYT that chronicles the history of the college application.

While I think the Common Application (with a whopping 517 colleges and universities participating) cuts down the anxiety of having to fill out multiple forms to apply to schools, I do remember my former admissions dean complaining that the ease of applying drives up applications from students who may not be competitive for that school. This year, the application is fraught with controversy, as the article mentions, because of technical errors and glitches. What you don’t want is hundreds of thousands of stressed out high school students and their parents complaining about glitches in the system that can delay or cancel an application! Good luck to the schools out there dealing with that…! Thanks to the NYT for the graphic below:

It’s the one month countdown for the Jan 1 deadline for most Regular Decision schools! Good luck!  Image

International Students Day 11/13 — Huge Virtual College Fair!

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The State Department, EducationUSA, and CollegeWeekLive are hosting a virtual college fair on 11/13! Sign up here: http://international.collegeweeklive.com/custom-signup/Education-USA/signup.html?refcode=INT_EDUSA_Post_Facebook Participating schools include UCLA, U of Arizona, and Amherst! All amazing schools!

Next week is International Education Week!

Woo hoo!!

My Worlds Collide! Diplomacy and Education — MOOCs Connect Students to U.S. Style Education

This past week was a super exciting one for me! The MOOC project that I had been working on for the past two months in the Embassy in La Paz with a local university got some great press through FAST COMPANY and The New York Times! The State Department even featured a video of it on their official Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs page.

I don’t think that MOOCs are going to solve all of the problems in educational inequality all over the world, but for motivated, bright, engaged students like the ones I work with in Bolivia, they are another resource where they can find high quality education at their finger tips — it’s all free and all they need is an internet connection! I plan on continuing the pilot program here, and I hope that many of these students will be inspired in the future to apply to American universities for post grad studies!

Not to Add Fuel to the Asian Stereotype Fire…Fascinating BBC Article on Education Craze in Asia

This article about what lengths parents will go to Asia to support their students popped up on my twitter feed from the BBC, and I wanted to share it because the fact that so many Chinese students want to study in the U.S. shows two things:

1) The higher education system in the U.S. is still one of the strongest resources that America has to offer

2) There exists a perception that the Chinese education systems still lack the power to prepare individuals for success in the globalized context. I think this will change, given the university partnerships that so many U.S. schools are willing to forge with Chinese institutions, but there is still a huge benefit for international students who study in the U.S.

Some incredible stats from the article:

  • Last year an estimated 40,000 Chinese students travelled to Hong Kong to take the US college admissions exam, the Scholastic Assessment Test (SATS), which is not offered in mainland China.
  • Chinese education company, New Oriental Education, organises SAT trips to Hong Kong for $1,000 (£627) on average, and parents spend up to $8,000 (£5,020) on tutoring.
  • It does not stop there. Nearly 87% of Chinese parents said they were willing to fund study abroad.
  • 70% of Korean household expenditure, according to estimates by the Samsung Economic Research Institute in Seoul, goes toward private education, to get an educational edge over other families.

Thinking of our American high school students competing with that firepower from Asia…wow.

Any thoughts you’d like to share? Comment below or email me asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com

Photo Credit: Reuters

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NYU and ETS Support Dis-aggregation of AAPI in Admissions — Great Report with Case Studies

I’m grateful to my friends and former colleagues who send me AAPI/Admissions related articles. Today’s update is an important one — albeit it’s a little outdated since it came out this past summer — but is JAM packed with great arguments on why admissions offices / testing organizations/ higher education in general needs to see AAPIs as separate and independent groups. I’ve argued before that clumping all AAPIs makes no sense when they have historical/immigration/income/educational attainment differences (just to name a few).

This article from Inside HigherEd gives a succinct summary of the full report. I am really impressed that Educational Testing Services, home of the GRE and TOEFL, supported this research. I have to call out the College Board SAT Test and ACT Test for stubbornly using “Asian American Pacific Islander” as one group to ID students. I think the years when I was working at Stanford, even ASIANS FROM ASIA (ie, international students) were clumped in to that data. How stupid is that? Let’s hope further research will encourage organizations to be more sophisticated about our populations.

Below are two graphs with the differences in Median Household Income for Asian American Sub-groups, and their educational attainment in the next graph. Thanks to the NYU CARE report for the data.

As always if you have comments or questions, email me at asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com

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College Admissions, Employers differ on social media background checks

Interesting stats re: social media background checks for admissions applicants! I have to admit that our colleagues may have poked around google to see if applicants were telling the truth about awards or honors they won…but the truth is that with an application load of around 1400+ an officer…we did not have time to be doing this.