Income Inequality in Higher Education (Final)

For many college is seen as a stepping stone to a better life, however it is increasingly becoming an advantage only affordable by those who are already privileged.

In New York, for example, a scholarship intended for 23,000 people received 75,000 applicants. While some were turned away because they did not meet the criteria, such as being in a higher income bracket than the one targeted, others were turned away because of gaps in their schooling caused by illnesses or accidents.

It is only fair that, in the case of a scholarship that receives more than three times as many applicants as it can provide for, applicants are turned away for any minor deviation from the terms and conditions of the scholarship. Regardless, this shows that scholarships are clearly insufficient to deal with the demands of students who need them, and shows that they are sometimes arbitrarily enforced in order to sort through tide of applicants they receive.

It should also be noted that colleges often have subtle but pervasive biases throughout their organization that contributes to an atmosphere of favoritism towards continuing generation students – those with more educated, and generally more wealthy, parents.

Students from lower income backgrounds are not only less likely to enroll in college, they’re also less likely to graduate: according to Vox “only about one in 10 low-income first generation students graduate on time.”

While this bias is understandable, as the administrators of any college are likely to be well educated themselves, and thus use language and rhetoric that targets their own demographics, it unfairly disadvantages those who often need the most help, further contributing to a cycle of nepotism and elitism. Low income students, who likely attended less than prestigious high schools and are often the first in their families to seek a higher education, are much less equipped to deal with the rigors of college than their upper class peers.

According to the New York Times, “more than a quarter of student loan debtors are delinquent or in default”, and student loan debt is the second fastest rising category of debt in the United States.

These statistics show that, even after finishing college, many students are incapable of recovering financially. Whether they graduated and failed to find a job or had to drop out because of an unwelcoming atmosphere, lower class students are disproportionately affected by the financial rigors of college.

For some education is invaluable, while for others it is an excruciatingly valuable commodity which they must spend decades paying for. The main difference is that lower class students, who rely the most on the advantages that education provides, are the ones most often – and most severely – effected negatively by their college experience.

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