The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Nothing: Economic Disparities Affect Education

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by Ace Hobfoll

Most of America is not rich. The average American makes $50,000 a year, which, in a country where a small percentage of people make several million dollars a year, seems fair. But this isn’t about those above average people, or those millionaires and billionaires. This is about their kids.

There’s a secret inequality when it comes to the rich and the poor and the growing gap between them, and it comes in the form of education. Of course, it’s no secret that the rich often get a better education because they can afford it, more often than not being catered to by institutions. The disconnect between the kids of the upper class and the kids of the lower-to-middle class is often apparent both in and out of the classroom.

Because people in the higher socio-economic brackets can afford to send their children to more expensive schools, their children have a greater likelihood of having the credentials make more money in the future. People who go to college are at a major employment advantage compared to those who don’t go to college.

Schools rely on kids who can pay full tuition to fund their schools. Studies have shown that colleges will often accept more of these students, along with legacy applicants, to pay their bills. Furthermore, students who ask for more financial aid are more likely to be rejected

To the rich kids out there: it’s not necessarily your fault, but you’re not making this situation any better. Because parents can afford to send their kids to extracurriculars, like dance classes or sports, students appear more well-rounded when looking for colleges. This allows for them to get more of the few merit and sports scholarships available.

Colleges look for the best in a pool of applicants, and the candidates who seem the best on paper are often the richest. Richard Sanders, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who studies racial and economic disparities in higher education, notes that, “At elite law schools like Yale and Harvard Law, 60 percent of the incoming students tend to come from the top 10 precent of the socioeconomic spectrum, while only 5 percent come from the bottom half.”

This isn’t particularly surprising; there’s a long-held stereotype that poorer kids don’t even apply to these higher ranked schools.

But what if they did? Would these numbers stay the same? How can we, as a country, move towards making education something that everyone can achieve? The jury is still out on that front.

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