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Elite Universities Look to Boost Economic Diversity

Research suggests less than 5 percent of students at America's top colleges and universities come from low-income families. Many of these elite institutions recognize the problem and are taking steps to boost economic diversity on campus -- such as offering full scholarships for underprivileged students.

Some education experts applaud the move, but say that to make a real difference, top schools should go further and embrace policies of economic affirmative action.

But some education researchers suggest there aren't enough college-ready low-income students graduating from public schools to raise these numbers appreciably. NPR's Anthony Brooks reports.

At a Glance:

* Nearly three quarters of students at the nation's top 140 schools come from the wealthiest families; 3 percent come from the bottom economic quartile. (Source: Richard Kahlenberg, Century Foundation)

* A study of 19 selective universities found privileged students are six times more likely to end up in the pool of applicants than underprivileged students. (Source: William Bowen, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation)

* Research suggests that if admissions departments gave low-income applicants the same credit based on their economic status as they do to the children of alumni, the percentage of disadvantaged students at elite schools would rise from 11 percent to 17 percent. (Source: William Bowen, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation)

*According to the Manhattan Institute, only 51 percent of all black students and 5 percent of all Hispanic students graduate, and only 20 percent of all black students and 16 percent of all Hispanic students are ready for college when they leave high school. (Source: Greg Foster, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research)

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anthony Brooks has more than twenty five years of experience in public radio, working as a producer, editor, reporter, and most recently, as a fill-in host for NPR. For years, Brooks has worked as a Boston-based reporter for NPR, covering regional issues across New England, including politics, criminal justice, and urban affairs. He has also covered higher education for NPR, and during the 2000 presidential election he was one of NPR's lead political reporters, covering the campaign from the early primaries through the Supreme Court's Bush V. Gore ruling. His reports have been heard for many years on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.