‘Higher education essentially preserves intergenerational racial and class inequality’: How coronavirus could make it worse

With colleges squeezed for revenue, persistent problems are likely to continue.

Article_Normal, Business/Consumer Services

6/13/2020 8:55:00 AM

The coronavirus could exacerbate the inequities in higher education. “It seems to be this ticking time bomb for the institutions that are least well-resourced,” said Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at Demos, a think tank.

With colleges squeezed for revenue, persistent problems are likely to continue.

At the same time, the colleges that educate the bulk of students generally and low-income students and students of color in particular — community colleges, regional public colleges and historically black colleges and universities — are often strapped for funding, hampering their ability to provide for their students both academically and financially. With the economic downturn squeezing schools even further, that gap is only likely to increase.

As a society we’ve taken for granted the idea that people who receive the degrees that set them up for a life of financial stability deserve them. This notion, what Carnevale and his co-authors recently dubbed “the merit myth” in a book by that title, mean that Americans are generally comfortable believing that those with access to an elite college education competed fairly for the opportunity and won. In reality, this group actually got a leg up through admissions processes that focus on metrics that tend to be correlated with wealth.

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