WASHINGTON – Anthony Carnevale,a vice president at Education Testing Service, suggested a new bumper sticker Wednesday: “Send poor kids to college,not rich kids to Mars.”
On the same day that President Bush was announcing his plan to return astronauts to the moon and to send them to Mars,Carnevale and other education advocates were discussing a new collection of essays,“America's Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education,” published by the Century Foundation.
“Now the only way you can get ahead is college,” Carnevale said. “It matters where you go. There are benefits to going to more selective colleges.”
Claudio Sanchez,education correspondent for National Public Radio,started the panel discussion by quoting former presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Sanchez said,“This government created the expectation over 40 years ago that all Americans,no matter their income,could go to college.”
But income does matter,as Carnevale said in the discussion of the essay that he co-wrote,“Socioeconomic States,Race/Ethnicity and Selective College Admissions”
A large part of the discussion was about the allocation of federal aid for college students.
“To put it informally,the dumbest rich kids have as much of a chance to go to college as the smartest poor kids,” said Lawrence Gladieux,a higher-education consultant and author of the essay “Low-Income Students and the Affordability of Higher Education.”
Richard Kahlenberg,Century Foundation senior fellow and editor of the essay collection,wrote in the introduction that colleges are acting more like “market players” when they use aid to attract students based on talent rather than distributing the money to those who need it the most.
“What we're seeing is institutions increasingly giving money to middle and upper class students,” said Arthur Hauptman,a higher-education consultant.
Hauptman,co-author of the essay “Improving the Academic Preparation and Performance of Low-Income Students in American Higher Education,” said a survey of 1980 high school sophomores showed that,12 years later,those from poor families were six times less likely to have a bachelor's degree than those from wealthy families.
The panelists discussed what they called the pipeline of higher education. The three P's of the pipeline are preparation,participation and performance,and Gladieux said there is “leakage every step of the way.”
“Lots of colleges talk about letting lower-income students in,but the fact is they don't do it,” Carnevale said. “College admissions are increasingly dependent on who pays.”
Sanchez said the “elephant in the room” was the lack of debate about education policy in the presidential campaign.
“It would be fairly easy to draw a nice contrast to what the Bush administration is doing,so it would be a great issue for any Democratic candidate to pick up on,” Hauptman said. “I don't think they've done that as much yet,maybe that will happen later on.”