Elite colleges enroll few low-income students and many very high-income students, notes the New York Times. The “single easiest way” to increase socioeconomic diversity is to accept community college transfers, the Times writes. Transfers have made the University of California campuses in Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego much more diverse than other top colleges.
The truth is that many of the most capable low- and middle-income students attend community colleges or less selective four-year colleges close to their home. . . . Incredibly, only 44 percent of low-income high school seniors with high standardized test scores enroll in a four-year college, according to a Century Foundation report — compared with about 50 percent of high-income seniors who have average test scores.
“The extent of wasted human capital,” wrote the report’s authors, Anthony P. Carnevale and Jeff Strohl, “is phenomenal.”
While drop-out rates are high at community colleges, students who succeed tend to be highly motivated and far more likely to be “war veterans, single parents and immigrants who have managed to overcome the odds,” writes the Times.
Amherst has succeeded in boosting socioeconomic diversity: Some 22 percent of students now qualify for Pell Grants, up from 13 percent in 2005. One strategy: 62 percent of transfer students came from a community college.