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Probably the best point made in this article is that universities aim for "surface" diversity: they take the easy route of pretending that picking enough students of enough different racial backgrounds is actually making their school diverse. Its not. You end up with a bunch of kids from the same upper middle class suburbs. They might not all have the same skin color, but they will have the same accent, culture, and their version of a summer job in high school was at a shopping mall.

I felt like an alien at school. Rural communities have a much lower cost of living, but also a much lower income. A rural kid who makes it to a university will almost certainly have to work an almost full-time job just to cover their living expenses, books, tuition, rent...etc. This divide was apparent to me as a student at Virginia Tech. 80% of VT's students come from the wealth DC suburbs. Yet wherever I worked when I was a student, the vast majority of my coworkers were from rural parts of the state. The "NoVa" kids in general didn't have to get jobs at all due to their parent's earning power. For them, rent was a joke. For rural kids, rent for a room is half what their parent's pay on mortgage or rent. Take this single piece of difference, and then extrapolate it to every other aspect of culture.

No offense, but your comment is a symptom of the very problem the article is highlighting. You say:

"A rural kid who makes it to a university will almost certainly have to work an almost full-time job just to cover their living expenses, books, tuition, rent...etc."

The point of the article is that this is not true and almost no one knows it! If you go to Harvard/Stanford/MIT/etc -- basically any of the Ivy League, top LACs, or a few other elite schools -- and your family makes under, say, $60k/year, your tuition/room/board/books will be absolutely free. All covered by the school. No crippling student loans, no expectation of you working a job while in school (except maybe 10hrs/wk of cushy work-study for spending money). Even if your family is a bit wealthier, it's still the case that for most middle-class families the cost of an Ivy League education works out to less than the cost of the local state school. Very few families know this.

Is there culture shock? Sure, of course. That's part of the point -- for both the poor rural kids and the rich urban kids, and everyone in between. But at schools with the resources to do diversity right (which, sorry to hear, doesn't sound like it includes Virginia Tech), the shock is only cultural, not financial, so the full college experience really is accessible to students from any background.

This is totally true: I ended up going to one of those top tier universities just because the economics worked out much better than virtually every other opportunity I had. Depending on how you account for things, actually ended up making a profit without working either a full or a part time job.

The culture shock issue was huge, though: half the people in my freshman dorm read the New Yorker (or, more accurately, subscribed to it and prominently displayed it as an affectation), while I hadn't even heard of it. Learning how to ape upper class cultural cues was probably the most valuable thing I got out of college.

I would have killed to be in a place where that many people read the New Yorker. My shock was the opposite. My fancy liberal arts school turned out to have very few people that read anything of quality unless they were forced to.

Same, except in my case my liberal arts school wasn't particularly fancy. The CS crowd was great, but every other department was composed of a student body completely alien to what I would expect in a learning institution.

I also went there becasue it was the best cost - full boat except the room and food. I really regret it now, because the most valuable thing I found out you get in a bachelors of CS is recruiters visiting the school plus job fairs of big businesses like Google and Amazon that come right to the front door. Small schools have nothing like that, and maybe a few dozen tech companies at most hiring alumni locally.

Oohoohoho cmon give us the upper class cultural cues cheat sheet!

And you just taught me that "ape" is a verb! I know, really off topic...

In English, you can verb any noun.

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/15473/is-it-possi... even has an example of verbing an adjective in Calvin and Hobbes: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1993/01/25 (found via http://michaelyingling.com/random/calvin_and_hobbes/)

The verb ape is not simply a verbed version of the noun. It means "shallowly imitate".

After my freshman year at my state university, I transferred to an Ivy League school.

My financial aid now covers more than tuition (housing/dining plan/etc). I owe more money for my freshman year at a state university than my 3 remaining years combined at an Ivy League school.

I know anecdotes != data, but I and a bunch of my friends at our Ivy League university applied through the QuestBridge program[0] and for the most part, davmre's comment is completely on point.

I work more because I want to have more web dev on my resume before hitting the real world and also because I like being able to pay for some niceties that my mother wouldn't otherwise be able to afford, not because I need to to stay in school.

[0] http://questbridge.org/

"your tuition/room/board/books will be absolutely free."

You do not know that. You simply do not. The kids/family are operating from a fear reaction. Some years ago there was a study about why more poor people have (pre-video on demand) cable TV than phone. The paper's conclusion was you could predict and budget the cable bill to the penny, other than traditional low yearly increases, but you can never predict next months phone bill, all you need is some 900 number calls or lots of long distance (back when that was expensive) and that means you literally cannot afford to pay the bill this month, hit to credit report, collectors calling, maybe disconnected (so why bother connecting to begin with...). Whoops. Plenty of poor families can survive a stable $25 cable bill every month for basic cable but not a phone bill that might semi-randomly be $10 this month and $125 next month. Therefore out of fear sign up for the devil you know rather than the devil you don't know.

"No crippling student loans" You sure about that? Guarantee that no aid package to any poor kid in the country would contain loans as part of the package? That is definitely not how it used to be. In the old days you'd absolutely have loans as part of the package. If you get a $125K/yr software dev job, $20K of loans is small, but if you are one of the majority who drop out, or get a financially nonviable degree in a field with high new grad unemployment, that kind of loan could destroy you and your family. Much safer to go to state-U.

What you meant to write is something like a $40K/yr family can send a kid to a $60K/yr school and get a completely unknown and utterly unpredictable but probably rather large amount of help which might even approach the total cost of attendance but you'll never know until you sign up and it might vary from year to year and certainly will vary from school to school. Its not unusual for a low income family to have roughly 100% of their income already budgeted and no substantial access to loans, so teasing the family with $57K of "help" at a $60K school is useless if the family can't scrape up $3K extra per year. If they could scrape up $3K/yr they would probably already spend it on health insurance, or maybe car insurance, or food, or dentistry, or ... So assuming there's an infinite pool of available cash is unrealistic. On the other hand if state-U wants $4K but guarantees loan availability, the kid seems infinitely better off going to state-U because the tuition bill can actually be paid (with a loan ... but paid nonetheless)

How don't you know that? You get a fairly specific offer letter before you have to choose whether to attend. You can also read the policies ahead of time, which at some schools at least are specified in some detail.

Harvard actually does give completely free tuition, room & board, and books—not structured as loans—to anyone whose family makes under $65k/year. Expected family contributions (which may come in the form of loans) only kick in above $65k. Admittedly, that's unusual, only possible because Harvard has a gigantic endowment.

Getting full information in an offer letter does not help if the fundamental problem is uncertainty before applying.

I googled it and read the official Harvard application instructions, which specify the application fee is $75 although you can ask them to waive the fee. It didn't specify the odds of them granting the fee waiver (0%? 100%?) nor did it specify waiving would have no effect on your application (The same document specifically claimed in writing that the inability to schedule an interview has no negative effect on your application, but no such language WRT a fee waiver request). Also the risk was not specified, like if they deny and bill you will collections go after you or "merely" toss out your app for non-payment or ... The problem is not so much $75, as the general cultural advice to apply to 10 other schools just in case which turns it into a $750 problem for a kid.

They also want a rather remarkable amount of (expensive) paperwork sent to them. Everything about the SAT costs money, $50 for the basic test, $11 to send the scores to a school (seriously, $11? In 2013 it costs $11 to shove some digits somewhere?) although all is peppered with "fee waiver available".

Aside from the cost investment, there is also the time investment problem. As per above if you decide you can't afford it, and they want a fairly large amount of work done to apply, even if even more paperwork could result in it being free, well, why bother?

All excellent points. My understanding is that fee waivers are granted more or less automatically for any plausible candidate, and no school would ever take anyone to collections over a denied fee waiver request (they just wouldn't process the application until the fee is paid), but as you point out, low-income / first-generation-college applicants are unlikely to know this stuff. There are also programs like QuestBridge which attempt to streamline the process of applying to multiple schools, fee waivers, etc., but again a lot of students don't know about them.

How automatic is automatic?

My brother went to Harvard, partly because their financial aid offer was best, and I recall my father cursing the required forms. He's a lawyer, so ordinary legalese doesn't phase him, but he found those troublesome. Now I imagine a family without a JD in it, or even without a BA in it, trying to fill them out...

I'll toss in that when price discrimination (which is what selectively subsidized education essentially is) has a time component, the lowest-income potential students are least likely to be able to take advantage of it, being short on both time and money. Higher income families have access to both more free time (especially in our leisure-consumption society) and better access to knowledge (including buying it, e.g. test-prep or better school councilors).

"If you go to Harvard/Stanford/MIT/etc -- basically any of the Ivy League, top LACs, or a few other elite schools -- and your family makes under, say, $60k/year, your tuition/room/board/books will be absolutely free."

Unless your family is paying for multiple children going to college at the same time. Mine was a lower middle class family paying for my older brother and I to go to college (with my younger brother going to college by time I was a senior). My parents combined made more than 60k but not by all that much. Combine this with the fact that Columbia's financial aid pool actually dried up when I entered the school (an alum eventually donated a hefty sum a couple years later but that was after I graduated) and my family ended up not meeting the harsh financial aid requirements. And my case wasn't unique either. My roommate, and eventual best friend, was in the same position but without a younger sibling.

"Even if your family is a bit wealthier, it's still the case that for most middle-class families the cost of an Ivy League education works out to less than the cost of the local state school."

This one isn't true in all states. In NY, if you had the type of grades that would get you into an Ivy, you would get some form of scholarship to most of the local state schools. My cousin (same year and school) wasn't good enough to get into an Ivy but he had good grades. He put his effort into showing a few choice state schools that he was really interested in them. This landed him a partial scholarship (with grade requirements that he easily hit). Combined with how easy commuting is in NY (so no dorm) and his total tuition came out to less than half of what I paid in a single year.

You make a good point, but you went too far in saying that this is not true. The universities you describe here enroll very few undergraduates and tend to have a low percentage of low income students.


UC Berkeley, for instance, enrolls more low income students than the entire ivy league combined. 44% of UC San Diego undergraduates qualify for Pell grants.

I knew people at UCSD who were trying to major in computer science while working 20+ hours a week at Nordstrom or the Tie Rack at the local mall to pay the rent. There was some financial aid available, but not enough to cover the gap. There are plenty of rich kids at UCSD as well, but there's a big mix.

I understand that when two high seniors in a wealthy school district bump into each other in the hallway and get out their measuring tapes -er- acceptance letters, UCSD isn't considered especially elite. But if we lose a computer science student who got into UCSD because he couldn't keep up with the need to survive financially while passing compilers, vector calculus, physics, and a GE elective, we have lost an elite student.

I'm glad I saw this up close and understood the problems it causes. I actually think that it may be a problem at Ivy League schools that students are so far removed from this problem - they meet fewer low income students, and those they do meet are well funded. Do they meet the student who is struggling with the financial aid application because her father is claiming her as a dependent but isn't actually giving her any financial support? I know two young women in this spot, one who gave up on pre-med at least in part because of tough financial problems.

Going to college with a large number of low income students at a school that is not quite as capable of funding them as an Ivy League opened my eyes to a lot. In particular, I'm galled by the claims of large silicon valley companies that there is an engineer shortage. I'm all for skilled immigration, but how does it strike you that a government and corporate elite bleating about a skills shortage is willing to watch a talented young student get bounced from a compacted CS department while working 30 hours a week at nordstrom? All while state funding is dramatically reduced?

" Do they meet the student who is struggling with the financial aid application because her father is claiming her as a dependent but isn't actually giving her any financial support?"

Having been in a situation similar to this, I can say that this sucks. A lot. Thank you for understanding. Most people just look down on and blame people who can't afford school, because they'd prefer to think that they got their own degrees through nothing but hard work, when it's instead partly to highly dependent on what sort of parents you have, these days.

No offense, but you're divorced from the mentality of the poor. Unless you have been taught that you can get into any school - unless you have been taught what grad school is - unless you have been taught the differences between schools - unless you've been given the context to grasp many of a wide variety of things relating to the educated class -

You're going to assume that (1) they are just saying that because Marketers Are Liars, (2) you're not smart enough - those schools are only for smart people, and (3) you can't afford it anyway.

I know someone who didn't know the difference between an Associate's and a PhD when they were in high school, and didn't even really conceptualize the idea that college was a real possibility when they were a teen.

My point is, you have to shift your entire cultural context when talking about the poor and the uneducated: you - anyone who's not deal with them - has to get the narrative context they live in before you can dismiss their non-attendance at the top schools.

I don't think we disagree? My claim was that many bright low-income kids don't know about or understand the opportunities available to them. Obviously it's not because they're stupid -- we're talking about kids smart enough to go to Harvard -- so yes, I think the majority of the reasons are cultural and/or stem from lack of information.

Okay. In that case, I quite definitely misread. My sincerest apologies, davmre.

The economics of this might explain why it is not highly publicised and why they don't go out of their way to recruit lower class kids.

They can probably afford to have x% poor kids every year because the rich kids who pay can make up the rest.

If they got masses of applications from bright poor kids every year they would have to be more selective about offering aid.

I thought they were very clear about this. I came from a low income family, and would never have applied to the Ivy League school I ended up attending if they weren't bragging so loudly of their "no loans" policy. Heck, at least one of the schools even cold called me (one that I didn't apply to -- not sure how they got my number) and started their pitch by saying "no loans policy."

And just to add another point of data: I did in fact get more grants than the cost of attending, so I profited from attending school without having to work. These policies are very real, and at least to me, they were very transparent and are what made me apply.

I don't think there is any attempt to hide it, either: I think the sad reality is that it's just harder for low income students to compete with upper middle class and wealthy kids who attend the nation's best K-12 schools and whose well-educated parents have pushed them academically as best they know how. Ivy League admissions policies try to correct for some of this, sure, but I'm sure it's extremely tough to balance that with penalizing kids who are well prepared due to their wealth. And these kids are astoundingly well-prepared, as I learned in college.

I thought they were very clear about this. I came from a low income family, and would never have applied to the Ivy League school I ended up attending if they weren't bragging so loudly of their "no loans" policy. Heck, at least one of the schools even cold called me (one that I didn't apply to -- not sure how they got my number) and started their pitch by saying "no loans policy."

Why would you be worried about taking out a loan for an Ivy League education? Assuming you don't do something foolish like major in Medieval History, it's one of the safest, strongest investments in yourself you could possibly make, even purely from a financial point of view.

I came out of MIT with something like $40,000 worth of loans, but the M.Eng. that paid for returned (and continues to return) a substantial multiple of that.

It's nice that these elite institutions are now offering an essentially free education for lower middle-class households, but if you feel capable of exploiting the value of such an education, there's rarely a reason not to leverage yourself for it.

I didn't go to a school that really sent people to the Ivies, so in my mind it was just this exclusive rich people's country club that cost over $200k to attend. I assumed you could basically buy your way in and that low income students were at a disadvantage. My parents could afford to pay $0 for my college education, and I wasn't interested in what I thought would be a $200k loan for that kind of place. Of course, these preconceptions completely changed when I started my college search, but that's the impression I had growing up.

Still, though, I absolutely would not have taken out a $200k loan :) that was like 5x my parents' combined income. No way I could stomach that, and I don't understand how others can. I lucked out in studying CS and graduating during a boom so I'm earning quite a lot more than I ever thought was possible, but it was never my goal to be rich, and my state's flagship school was free for me due to merit scholarships.

I turned down MIT because it was too expensive. (Admittedly, I was also looking for something other than CS.) Instead, I went to a school that was much clearer about giving me a full-ride scholarship.

And, despite following this line of argument, I've been unable to convince my younger sister to apply to Ivy League schools thus far. She's got time left in high school, so it's not final, but she's been balking at the idea of even applying, in part because of the perceived cost, even after I explained the "no loans" stuff to her.

I can’t imagine how the ivies could make it any clearer. Every one of them brags prominently about being need blind, about no tuition for the poorest students, and about no loans for most of the middle class.

Interesting that "name" universities run their own little micro-cosms of wealth redistribution without the usual howls from the anti-welfare troupe. Indeed, it seems to be met with universal acclaim.

Not making a judgement one way or the other; just interesting that this phenomenon seems to be exempt from politics.

I think it's exempt from politics because it's a free choice of a private entity.

There are a great many things that, done out of personal choice by private citizens are laudable, but done en masse by a government body are offensive to me.

Want to choose a religion as a private citizen? Great. Want to do the same as a government? NFW.

Want to choose to serve in the military?...

Want to make reproductive choices?...

Want to decide your profession?...

Want to decide whom to marry?...

A lot of this may be because people who get into Ivy League universities are (rightly or wrongly) seen as talented and hard-working. Most people don't have qualms about money going to talented & hard-working people who are down on their luck; they have qualms about money going to lazy mooches who'll spend it on booze.

Now, whether it's true that Ivy League student = talented & hard-working and welfare mom = lazy hedonistic mooch is another discussion, but those are the stereotypes that many people operate under.

Misaimed. The money doesn't go to the ivy league student. It passes directly to administrators, professors, etc, via tuition and endless fees. The more expensive the school, the lower percentage the kids get to skim off for living expenses. So at vo-tech level most of the money loaned as a percentage is going for booze, apartments, cars, gas, food rather than tuition.

Now if the kids got huge loans, stuck the dough in stock market funds, defer interest until graduation at which time they cashed in the funds, paid taxes and paid off the interest free loans, and kept a tidy small profit, as my econ professor and his friends did in the 70s/80s, then money could be said to go to the kids. This practice has been pretty much eliminated.

To be fair, most of the "anti-welfare" troupe don't seem to be against "wealth redistribution" per-se (which is what makes it such a weird battlecry) but against government handouts to people who don't "contribute" via taxation.

Why would you be against something writ large, but all for it writ small?

You might think the "writ small" version had more likelihood of being executed competently, but that shouldn't make you against the thing per se.

I hate taxes, but if you want to give $20 to a homeless guy, then that is your money.

You're missing the point completely, If a private Ivy League institution wants to redistribute wealth, that's fine. One must opt in to be part of that group, and it only affects members who choose to be part of that group, knowing the consequences. If the federal government wants to, it's much different as one's choice to belong to a national government is much less free.

Yes, also getting a scholarship to an Ivy League implies hard work on the part of the recipient whereas welfare can be abused by free-riders.

I make annual donations to my university's alumni fund because I would not be where I am without the opportunities given to me by my choice in college. I also want to give that opportunity to the next under privileged kid.

As others pointed out, wealth redistribution in this case is voluntary.

This is probably because a lot of those universities are private, and not publicly funded, and most of those scholarships are probably also privately funded.

But how "private" are universities, really?

Does the whim of a private company really get to determine if you get a scholarship or not - and thus profoundly influence your future career? Or are these universities really implicit public institutions?

I don't think Stanford university is purely private in the same way that, say, the Coca-cola company is private.

The scholarships may be privately funded, but 84% of Stanford research funding in 2012 was received "directly or indirectly from the Federal Government". That's a quarter of the University's overall income, according to its annual report[1], before you start accounting for tax breaks. I don't doubt the government gets a return on that strings-attached investment, but welfare has positive externalities too...


That's a great point, and you could also ask how "public" universities are as well. UC Berkeley now gets about 12% of its budget from the state.

Its a little difficult to make direct comparisons to Stanford, as Stanford's numbers will include a medical research university while Berkeley and UCSF are considered separate campuses, and Med centers have huge budgets. But the state financial support for UC Berkeley has dropped dramatically (around 12%).

It may be different for the smaller state schools that are not research universities. But if you line it up, private and public universities research universities are more similar than different in their sources of funding (grants, private donations, endowment income, etc). The things people believe distinguish these universities from private ones (tuition, state support) are actually a relatively minor part of the budget.

It may not be true for the elite schools, but getting into those schools is winning a lottery, even for kids from rich families. Consider that in 2011, 6.2% of the applicants were admitted into Harvard (http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2011/3/31/percent-class-st...). There were certainly lots of extremely bright, hard working, likely-to-be-successful kids in the 93.8% who were rejected.

The article's point is interesting, but looked at through this light, it's basically saying "I did not realize I could enter this lottery."

The parent commenter is pointing out that most kids from rural areas will end up at public state schools which do not have the resources of these elite private schools.

You assume financial aid puts students on par with those that do not need it. If you did go to college then you'll know that anyone working in the dorms or an on campus food court is a student who was on financial aid. And they worked those jobs because financial aid was not enough. Students that receive enough financial aid to avoid the need to work a job are the exception, not the norm.

Financial aid helps upward mobility but does not guarantee it. To think otherwise is pretty naive.

Yes and no. Obviously there are some rich kids whose parents give them spending money, and don't need to work at all during school. But plenty of parents, even from wealthy families, expect their kids to buy their own booze/gas/concert tickets/etc., and so, at least at my undergrad school (Williams), plenty of upper-class kids held work-study jobs and there was no stigma to it. I'm sure this varies by school, though. (as does the surrounding environment of what you can spend money on: big-city urban schools provide lots of opportunities for conspicuous consumption, whereas at small-town rural LACs like Williams everyone is equalized to some degree by living in the same dorms, eating in the same dining halls, and going to the same parties because there are no other options, so your work-study money really does go pretty far).

But top schools like that admit (and I'm completely making this number up, based on average class size for a school like that) on the order of tens of thousands of students per year, combined, and most of those are not going to be "rural kids". For the kinds of kids the article is talking about, the price of tuition at Stanford is basically irrelevant.

The more interesting question is, what kind of financial aid can they expect at your average state university?

Great point, though the caveat is this isn't true a level below. U of Chicago graduates poorer students near debt free. DePaul, perhaps not.

Going beyond "surface diversity" makes no economic sense for a profit-making institution.

You need some kids from "tough backgrounds" and ethnic minorities to convince your sponsors that their financial support is breaking down barriers, but you wouldn't want to spend money traipsing across the country mopping up all the "rough diamonds" to replace the regular upper-middle-class kids that don't need scholarships and are probably more likely to complete the course and leave a lavish endowment afterwards.

Only if you assume that the bright kids from "tough backgrounds and ethnic minorities" are less likely to succeed than dimmer non-minority rich kids. Which could be the case, but might not be.

Because if it's not, and those bright kids end up being successes, it could very well be in the long-term interest of a profit-making institution to make sure those kids are alumni. Not just for any possible donations, but for maintaining your prestige.

There's an interesting phenomenon that happens in the US. Upward social mobility almost never happens, but in the rare instance when it does, those examples are given as proof of the "American Dream". The book Ain't No Makin' It (http://www.amazon.com/Aint-Makin-Aspirations-Attainment-Neig...) does a good job of explaining the sociological issues.

It's a fair assumption to say that bright kids from "tough backgrounds" are less likely to succeed. That's not on an individual level, but on a national level it's certainly true. For most, these are kids who saw their parents work hard and get nowhere. That's a special kind of demotivation that's difficult to shake by the time college rolls around. It's also why there's almost no upward social mobility in the US.

It's also why there's almost no upward social mobility in the US.

What's your basis for claiming that? It doesn't jibe with available data. See:







    The key findings of this study include:
    There was considerable income mobility of individuals 
    in the U.S. economy during the 1996 through 2005 period 
    as over half of taxpayers moved to a different income
    quintile over this period.
    Roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom 
    income quintile in 1996 moved
    up to a higher income group by 2005.
    Among those with the very highest incomes in 1996 – the 
    top 1/100 of 1 percent –
    only 25 percent remained in this group in 2005.     
    Moreover, the median real income of
    these taxpayers declined over this period.
    The degree of mobility among income groups is unchanged 
    from the prior decade (1987 through 1996).
    Economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most    
    taxpayers over the period from 1996 to 2005. Median 
    incomes of all taxpayers increased by 24 percent after
    adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds 
    of all taxpayers increased over this period. In 
    addition, the median incomes of those initially in the 
    lower income groups increased more than the median 
    incomes of those initially in the higher income groups.

In almost all discussions of social mobility, the measure is intergenerational mobility (do you end up in the same socioeconomic class as your parents), not if you made more later in your career than when you started. Almost everyone makes more later in their career than when they started, that's not a sign of upward social mobility (at least not on an intergenerational level).

For some reason, you cherry picked the one study that looked at all incomes in one of the most prosperous periods in the US. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socio-economic_mobility_in_the... does a good job of summarizing a number of studies that show that the US ranks as one of the least socially mobile countries in the world.

No one is arguing that people make the same amount their entire career. That's not what social mobility is. The fact is, the US has one of the lowest levels of intergenerational social mobility, and that exceptions to the rule are held up as evidence of The American Dream in action. It's not impossible to end up better off than your parents (in relative inflation adjusted terms), but that's the exception, and it's usually due much more to luck than hard work. Millions of americans work hard and end up exactly where their parents were.

All I'm saying is that a claim that "there is almost no social mobility in the US" is not backed up by the data. I'm not saying "everything is fine" or that we shouldn't do things to improve the situation.

You're saying that because most people make more money later in their career that the US doesn't have an issue with upward social mobility. That comes from a fundamentally flawed notion you have of what everyone else means when they say social mobility.

The fact is, most people end up in the same socioeconomic class as their parents. There are exceptions to the rule, but upward social mobility happens so infrequently in the US, that it's perfectly reasonable to model that as almost never happening. It's not impossible, it just almost never happens. The bigger problem is that the few counterexamples are used as anecdotal evidence to say "if everyone else would have just tried as hard, they'd be better off too". That's simply not true.

You're saying that because most people make more money later in their career that the US doesn't have an issue with upward social mobility.

No, that's not what I'm saying at all. But you seem determined to intentionally misinterpret what I'm saying, and this conversation isn't doing anything to benefit me, so I'm bowing out.

I haven't read that book. I recommend:

Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams http://www.amazon.com/Limbo-Blue-Collar-Roots-White-Collar-D...

EDIT to add: $25.52 for a Kindle book (Ain't No Makin' It)?! So the people who would be interested in perhaps reading it are screened out from affording it. Insanity.

To a point, yes, but there's no desperate shortage of smart amongst their existing intake, and especially once you've taken into account the career boost these institutions offer, I'm sure their alumni will do just fine even if they don't include the latent geniuses in village schools a couple of thousand miles away (many boringly white and not poor enough to make an interesting rags-to-riches story anyway). If you want prestige, it's a lot easier just to mop up the sports superstars, famous families and academic prizewinners anyway.

Aren't all the ivy league schools (and most if not all prestigious universities) non-profits? I assume they have a bit more to their mission than just investing in alumns who will generate returns in the form of endowments.

Just because it's a non-profit doesn't mean the institution isn't out for all the money it can get its hands on. It means that there aren't owners who are able to get the profits distributed to them in some form. But having more money rolling in means a lot to the careers of college leadership, even if they don't own the university - they can expect more prestige and power, distributing travel grants to faculty in the underwater basket-weaving department and whatnot... and generally buffing their resumé in case any other interesting college wants to hire them away.

Sorry, but "non-profit" does not mean altruistic. It's an exploited tax dodge a huge proportion of the time. Just look at the huge salaries in any successful non-profit, and you know they are not what they position themselves as.

This is not even slightly accurate and I hope most people can see your post as the trolling that it is.

>Aren't all the ivy league schools (and most if not all prestigious universities) non-profits?

Yes, but nonprofits still act like businesses with the exception that they don't return money to shareholders. I'm part of a grant writing consulting firm and wrote a blog post inspired by a previous HN post like yours: "Why Nonprofits Are More Like Businesses Than You Realize" (http://blog.seliger.com/2012/09/02/why-nonprofits-are-more-l...) that explains what working with and around nonprofits is like.

It has been argued that Harvard is basically an unregulated hedge fund attached to a university.


Here's a question, though. If you went to a public university gathering at one of these universities (students, profs, administration, whomever you prefer) and - without connecting it to the school's extant practices - proposed that the university undertake a course of action...

Do you think that they would agree with you, or protest loudly that such a thing is ideologically invalid and that you're a horrible person who deserves to be shunned for the rest of your life and possibly longer?

If you think of kids as investments, which is a very apt analogy from the perspective of these universities, the question is whether you should try to build a VC portfolio (aiming to get a few ultra-successes) or a mutual fund (aiming to get consistent growth from the majority of them).

It would be interesting to see if there are any admissions departments on record with statements that map to those philosophies, and any data that shows how those schools endowments fare over time.

This query completely ignores the human issue, which is significant and deserves consideration. But it would be interesting to know.

I'm about to graduate from Virginia Tech. You're absolutely right. Also, I'm an international student; 7 others applied to Tech from my high school. All got accepted. Virginia Tech tries really hard to get international students and it used to pretty much accept just about any international student (as opposed to the close by University of Virginia which gets most international applications and thus picks the highest two performers out of each school). I'm starting to see more and more internationals this year. When I first came, there was barely any. I thought it's really unfair that we got automatic acceptances just to look more diverse. Well, you might have guessed it: as a result it attracted the wrong crowd.

For many state schools, international students are a huge source of revenue. They mostly pay full freight.

Yep, and then the US government makes it almost impossible for us to find jobs here.

Would you mind elaborating on this? What's wrong with OPT?

Nothing. Just applied to mine in fact. But: 1- H1-B Is not guaranteed. It's a lottery (literally). and 2- You have 60 days after graduation on OPT to find a job. For many that I know (particularly not in the tech field), they are really searching for a job but can't find one at all. Even American citizens can't find a job that easily.

The tech field is an exception. I talked to 35-40 startups & companies from AngelList and other websites in a 4 months period. Ended up with 4 offers.

I might be mistaken, but afaik H1-B is not a lottery, it's just simply capped which means you have to apply for it during the one week of the year when they are available (note: that's this week) [1]. And then it's not guaranteed but more or less certain as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.

As for OPT: Aren't you allowed to work self-employed during that time [2,3]? So as long as you give yourself a job, you are fine?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-1B_visa#Congressional_yearly... [2] http://blog.messersmithlaw.com/?p=720 [3] http://e3visa.info/tag/opt-self-employed/

H1-B is a lottery. It is not guaranteed at all. There is a set number of visas issued each year. Google "H1-B lottery". Check out the latest Bloomberg article on it. Last year, on the fifth day when they received a specific number of applications, they closed of any new applications and did a lottery on who will get the visas.

I'm graduating in May - I cannot self employ myself :). I already accepted a job offer with a startup, and they will be applying for H1-B for me in two consecutive years. If I don't get it, I'll have to leave. Otherwise, I get H1-B for a max of 5 or 6 years I think

Holy crap. I went to high school in Kansas and undergrad at the Naval Academy. I just realized where and what "NoVa" is. I thought all those kids just had a year of community college before going to Canoe U. (There is a NoVa CC, but I'm pretty sure now that was not the usual context!)

Ivy league schools have need-blind admission and incredibly generous aid packages: they are free for low income students, so your comment is off topic for this post.

His post does not cover the whole story, but it is certainly on topic.

Where you're from and income level of your parents doesn't just affect your college experience once you're in college, but also earlier in the process.

I'll provide my anecdote: I grew up in a decent suburb with a decent public school system. However, my high school never produced any Ivy League college students and the counselors and teachers there never presented it as an option. Most kids were only vaguely aware of what the Ivy League even was. It was even a running joke in my year about one student who did apply ("Oh, so and so thinks he's going to go to "Harvard").

Meanwhile, the neighboring school districts, which were slightly more upper-middle class, routinely produced dozens of Ivy League-bound seniors yearly.

The main differences between my district and the neighboring ones was a 10 minute drive and a half century long history of old money in the other neighborhoods.

The point is: Where you are from and your surroundings can greatly impact your knowledge and access to higher levels of education.

Agreed. My life was changed by a single biology teacher who graduated from Harvard in the 1960s. He decided to devote his life to teaching in a sleepy, company-town (East Hartford, CT) public high school rather than pursue research, $$, etc. On the first day of class in 9th grade, he handed out photocopies of the sheet of paper that alumni interviewers fill out for potential applicants. This sheet of paper had checkboxes indicating achievement levels in things like art, music, sports, research, etc. with the following gradations:

-locally distinguished -distinguished at the town/county level -distinguished at the state level -distinguished at the national level

He told us that we were not competing with each other, but rather that we were competing with "a kid from Glastonbury [CT] who drove to school in a BMW this morning".

The message was clear: if you wanted to get into an ivy, the next four years of school were to be a grand song and dance to get as many state and national level checkmarks as possible.

We were lucky to have heard his message. There were a couple thousand other kids in the school that didn't hear it. How could they know that it worked this way?

I wonder if these need based aid package recipients tend to be from (1) lower income neighborhoods or (2) are from lower income families who strained financially in order to live in a higher income neighborhood so that their kids could go to the better schools.

Truth be told, it's probably a mix. My family was a high-ish income family for my high school (which seemed to have a range of income levels), but I'm still on financial aid. It actually seems most students on financial aid at Ivy Leagues aren't from the bottom-fifth of the income bracket, but more the third-to-fourth fifths. And some in the bottom of the top fifth.

Financial aid at say Yale doesn't phase out totally until $200k+ household income. It's substantial even at the $100k mark.

Technically, at least for my university, they're all need-based aid packages.

Anecdotally, I'm from the latter type of family. Despite my mother's efforts, we still couldn't relocate to a really good area in time for me to go to high school, but we eventually got my brother into a much better public school than I went to.

Definitely. Having grown up poor and rural, but with a kid that attends a private school in a city, I am amazed at the opportunities he will have that we didn't at his age.

Sure, we were all told we could be doctors or lawyers or industry titans... But we didn't actually know anybody that WAS those things.

Compared to my kid, who sits next to kids that have dads and moms that are district attorneys, nationally known surgeons, oil company owners, etc...

Kids at his school showed up for kindergarten and all but a few could already read. They spend their afternoons doing "enrichment" activities... Compared to the local public school where a sizable number of kids receive remedial tutoring and show up hungry.

Neither the article nor jkpab's comment is about ivies. In fact, the only "elite" college specifically mentioned in the article is NYU. NYtimes used a misleading headline, they probably should have stuck with the other headline "Elite Colleges are as Foreign as Mars".

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