12.6.11

DON'T CRY WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL.  A number of letters to the New York Times evaluate the merits of diversity initiatives at highly-regarded universities.  One writer, who may or may not have been rejected at her first-choice schools because of affirmative action (the letter being unclear on that point), provoked Ferule and Fescue to quip "people like her deserve all rather than most of the cookies."  Historiann picks up the thread, describing the tone of the letter as "public boo-hoo-hooing by one of suburban Philadelphia’s tragically overlooked and underprivileged."  At both sites, much tut-tutting about the self-absorbedness of the well-off and well-connected ensues.

Also in the collection is an observation from a professor at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
While the efforts by some “elite” colleges and universities to attract low-income students are undoubtedly well intentioned, the article does not consider how this trend might affect those schools that are now common options for low-income, high-achieving students: regional state universities.

These institutions, while obviously lacking the resources of, say, Amherst College, typically have a core of extraordinary students in the targeted demographic. Many of these low-income, high-achieving students go on to great success, including graduate and professional study at the “elite” schools.

If the elites were to extensively recruit these remaining gems, they would rob the state campuses of many of their greatest success stories. In turn, this would be used as a pretext for further budget cuts to state-funded schools.

Perhaps the best solution may not be to poach “star students” from state universities but rather to reduce the economic inequalities that have created the perceived disadvantages. By investing substantially in primary and secondary education and providing greater opportunities to the disadvantaged at a younger age, all colleges and universities (elite privates and state universities included) would profit in equal measure.
It's ultimately about the common schools inculcating the habits of the middle class, isn't it? Followed by the land-grants and the mid-majors recognizing that they are in the same business as the Ivies, and understanding that one promising kid recruited by a Harvard or Amherst away from Stevens Point or Colorado State or Northern Illinois or Ball State is still going to leave a substantial population of "gems" who deserve better than access-assessment-remediation-retention or a subprime party school.

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