Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Problems that (nearly) rich people have -- college edition

Yet another one of those posts that I started weeks ago as part of the big SAT thread then didn't get around to posting.

What are the major concerns of high school students applying for college? It's a long list but based on having worked with high school kids (primarily in urban and rural areas including Watts and the Mississippi Delta), I'd probably say:

Finding the money to pay for it;

Being able to finish in four years;

Avoiding remedial courses.

If, on the other hand, I was going to make my list based on what I read in the New York Times, the number one concern would clearly be not getting into the college of your choice.
[The SAT] was one of the biggest barriers to entry to the colleges [students] dreamed of attending.
I don't want to whitewash the issues with SAT and its role in college selection. The test has a history of being misused and there are real concerns about cultural biases in the verbal section, but even with these problem, the NYT's assertion simply isn't true for most students. For kids hoping to find a way to cover rent and groceries while attending local community colleges or four-year  schools, fear of a bad SAT simply isn't a high priority concern.

It is, however, for one segment of the population, namely the well-off.

I'm not talking about the rich. For people with serious money, there really aren't big barriers to getting kids into an elite school. I'm talking about roughly the top ten percent minus the top one half, people who have the money to cover a pricey tuition and to get their kids in the schools and settings where Ivy League admissions are fairly common. In other words, these are families with the resources to get their kids in range of prestigious schools.

The coverage of the SAT in major publications has been written almost entirely from the viewpoint of that nine and a half percent. This is, of course, not the first time we've seen the press (particularly the NYT) write from this perspective. A few years ago, we heard a great deal about how difficult it could be for a family to get by on between $250,000 to $350,000 in taxable income.

We could speculate on the underlying causes for this slant, but I think the important part is that the people writing and editing these stories seem completely unaware of how the world looks to the bottom 90%.

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