After World War II, American higher education sought to promote upward mobility for new student groups, with varying degrees of success. But in the decades that followed, the nation’s most selective colleges routinely ignored or turned away thousands of talented working-class and poor students from both rural and urban areas.
These colleges are finally acknowledging the persistent challenges facing such students. More of them, including the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where I work, have started offering free or sharply reduced tuition to low-income students and have established offices to support them academically and socially.
But do selective colleges truly understand the struggles low-income students face when they are surrounded by high percentages of undergraduates from much wealthier families?