• “A year’s tuition at an in-state public university in 1978 was $688 (in that year’s dollars, not adjusted for inflation), which is equal to 260 hours working at the 1978 minimum wage (less than seven 40-hour work weeks).
    A year’s tuition at an in-state public university in 2011 was $7,701, which is equal to 1,062 hours working at the 2011 minimum wage (nearly twenty-seven 40-hour work weeks).
    This doesn’t even factor in the cost of textbooks or room and board. “

    tags: socialclass

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kevin dooley

My campus has a new Equity and Inclusion Facebook group. This morning, I noticed that a colleague who has an excellent reputation for work in education and social justice had posted a link (without comment) to an article from the Cal Berkeley’s Alum publication: The Struggle to Be First: First-Gen Students May Be Torn Between College and Home.

It’s a relatively long piece for an alum publication, and author Alina Tugend has talked to authors who have done research about First Generation students and contacted programs in other places.  I believe that she set out to write a comprehensive and empathetic piece.

And still, I’ve read and reread the article multiple times and cannot find a single reference to any strengths that First Generation  — or their families — bring to the college experience beyond mention that one young woman is “diligent”.

First Gen students are portrayed here (kindly, to be sure), as exotic “others” who experience college as “going to a different country” and need “help”, who feel like “you can’t fit in”.

In short, it’s an article about how social class complicates access to college, without ever acknowledging class until the very end.  Almost as an aside after a litany of many ways that First Gen students are on the brink of failure, the author mentions a study showing that open discussion of social class led to to more academic and social engagement than did more generic discussion of obstacles to success in college.

So: talking openly about social class may enable to First Gen students to frame their experiences within broader contexts of inequality, yet it takes pages of patronizing language about “spelling everything out” and “helping” students and the recitation of data on drop-out rates and disengagement before we even learn that.

To be clear, the author has taken an unacknowledged stance here:  First Generation students need remediation and help, and she invests pages on how this might be done. Only as a side-note does she hint that perhaps we could start by simply acknowledging that more is at work here than naive parents and timid students  — but also formidable class barriers to education at the very border of middle class membership.

So I’ve been thinking about tweaking the language in the piece to acknowledge the dailiness of living as a classed being at the borders of class mobility.  For example:

  • Yes, parents may “fear that they’ll [their children] will evolve into someone the family no longer recognize”.  They also likely know the real judgment and disdain they experience in encounters with highly educated people, so it may not be so much fear as informed expectation.
  • First Gen students may “feel like you don’t fit in”.  Yes.  But this is not a psychological quirk.  First Gen students are reminded that they don’t belong multiple times a day, from the awkward pauses in conversations with privileged peers who know nothing about lives different from than their own,  to the necessity of navigating rules that are never spelled out (what the article refers to the “hidden curriculum”, without ever raising the question of who, why, or how it’s hidden if it’s important for success).
  • Yes, First Generation may need professors to “explain everything”, just as more privileged peers have had “everything” explained to them about college success since birth.   I’ve yet to see an article suggesting that there’s something almost pitiful about privileged students calling home for advice about course selection, internships, or how to negotiate one’s way out of the program requirements or bad grades.   Yet when First Generation students expect faculty and staff to actually explain what is needed for success, they’re described as exotic others in an alum magazine.

Besides taking issue with what’s written here, I also take issue with what is not.   Parents are rendered in single dimensions and are represented as speaking in only single sentences of disapproval to their children: they are fearful, naive, distant, seemingly selfish.  But they likely also are proud, loving, confused and ashamed that they can’t do more. They’re likely also sometimes funny and at least some make sure that they cook their kids’ favorite meals when they come home from college.   But we rarely read about the parents of First Gen students in ways beyond framing them as part of the problem.

There’s no mention here of real institutional barriers like rising tuition and decimated financial aid (it’s mentioned only in passing that one student is working three jobs).

There’s no mention of the First Gen/ Low-income student groups who are insisting that campuses have open and ongoing conversations about class privilege, not just remediation of the “needs” of First-Gen students.

There’s no mention of how elite parents put pressure on admissions officers to admit their under-qualified children — and certainly no mention of how campuses then provide special services to address the “needs” of those who may not have met admissions requirements.

Of course poor and working class parents may not understand the place of the Ultimate Frisbee club and study abroad.  And of course that can leave students feeling torn. But it is legislators, Boards of Regents, those managing college endowments, and those setting policies about financial aid who create very real obstacles to many First Gen students being able to travel or be involved in student life.

Yet no one is talking about how limited those power brokers are in their understanding of the the needs of First Gen students.

Ms. Tugend says nothing about her own class background here — authors rarely do.  Yet she has her own Wikipedia page, from which I could search to find that someone with the same name as her father received a scholarship at Berkeley in 1948. Ms. Tergund herself has a degree from Berkeley and two from Yale.

And in her article, I don’t find a single acknowledgement of the strengths of any of those she writes about beyond descriptions of one young woman as “diligent”.

Even while she writes kindly of those she seems to know so little about.

  • A quarter of admissions officers said they felt pressured to admit less-qualified applicants because they had business, political and other connections to the school, and 16 percent said they gave preference to the children or siblings of alumni.

    Those advantages are an “open secret in the college admissions process,” Seppy Basili, Kaplan’s vice president of college admissions and K-12 programs said in the report.

    tags: socialclass

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

  • This matters, deeply, in deepening the socio-economic isolation within which people live, work, play, learn, and build communities together.

    This matters in that wealth affords people choices, enables them to take the occasional risk in their lives, allows one to age with a modicum of dignity rather than relying on underfunded government supports.

    This matters because having choice in college is very much tied to family wealth.

    It matters because if meritocracy is still our ideal, the walls are being built higher and the ladders by which people sometimes climbed those walls are shrinking.

    tags: socialclass

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

  • Part 2 of the NPR report on simplifying the FAFSA:

    “Here’s the strange part: The Education Department already has the authority to start using prior-prior. So, why hasn’t it?

    One big reason: Money.

    The department says switching to prior-prior would come with a lot of costs. For one thing, using older income would make students seem a little needier.

    It would also increase the number of students who complete the FAFSA and thereby increase the amount of aid given.

    And these costs, the department says, would ultimately have to be approved by Congress.

    Translation: One reason Washington’s not yet using prior-prior, is because it would work.”

    tags: socialclass

  • An important, detailed study of how poor students fared during times of budget cuts and rising tuition in Virginia.

    “Further, the study found, since 2007 the state had made no progress in improving the socioeconomic diversity of its four-year institutions; the large gap in enrollment between poor and wealthy students has remained virtually unchanged.
    Students from low-income families who attend four-year universities were less likely “to remain enrolled, persist through and graduate from those institutions,” compared to students from more affluent families. “

    tags: socialclass

  • Years of deliberation over making the FAFSA more manageable, and still no solutions in sight.

    Many of the comments on this piece are very discouraging in their assumptions that anyone having problems with a cumbersome federal form doesn’t deserve to go to college.

    “The challenge is a real Catch-22: The FAFSA, in its current form, is prohibitively complicated for some students. But shortening it could lead to students having to fill out multiple forms, which would also be prohibitively complicated for some.”

    tags: socialclass

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Social Class Links 02/24/2015

February 23, 2015

  • Paul Krugman on how we cannot educate ourselves into greater equality.

    “But my sense is that there’s a new form of issue-dodging packaged as seriousness on the rise. This time, the evasion involves trying to divert our national discourse about inequality into a discussion of alleged problems with education.

    Paul Krugman
    Macroeconomics, trade, health care, social policy and politics.
    Cranking Up for 2016 FEB 20
    Weimar on the Aegean FEB 16
    Money Makes Crazy FEB 13
    Nobody Understands Debt FEB 9
    A Game of Chicken FEB 6
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    And the reason this is an evasion is that whatever serious people may want to believe, soaring inequality isn’t about education; it’s about power.

    Just to be clear: I’m in favor of better education. Education is a friend of mine. And it should be available and affordable for all. But what I keep seeing is people insisting that educational failings are at the root of still-weak job creation, stagnating wages and rising inequality. This sounds serious and thoughtful. But it’s actually a view very much at odds with the evidence, not to mention a way to hide from the real, unavoidably partisan debate.”

    tags: socialclass

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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