- EphBlog - http://ephblog.com -

EOP II

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 2 of 5 on this topic.

income2

Click on the image, or check out The Times directly, for more detail. But the basic message is simple: Williams is a rich families school in absolute terms, but less so than its NESCAC peers. Comments:

1) Again, this has little (nothing?) to do with the moral rectitude or policy preferences of the presidents and trustees of these schools. You really think that Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity cares less about economic diversity than Adam Falk? Hah! Trinity is a (much?) poorer school than Williams so it can’t afford as much financial aid.

2) These differences are large and meaningful, even among schools with not-dissimilar endowments and student populations. For example, I would not have predicted that the median Middlebury family was 1/3 richer ($244k versus $186k). I also can’t decide if Wesleyan, one of the poorest schools in NESCAC, has such a lower median income and small percentage from the top 1% because of a serious (and expensive!) commitment to socio-economic diversity or because its reputation as a social justice warrior school makes it less appealing to the wealthy. Comments welcome!

3) One of the main mechanisms, I think, by which schools manage the distribution of median income is via the wait list. The rich schools, like Williams, claim that family income plays no part in who gets off the wait list. (I believe that claim, but sleaziness in the use of the term “low-income” makes me more suspicious than I want to be.) Less rich schools take family income into account, which I bet means that the vast majority of students who get off the wait list require no financial aid.

4) The other mechanism for controlling the income distribution is to squeeze out the upper middle class, especially folks making somewhere between $75,000 and $180,000. These folks aren’t “poor,” and so, according to NESCAC presidents/trustees, don’t really add to socio-economic diversity, but they can be very expensive. Indeed, creating a barbell distribution — lots of super-rich and very poor — is the natural strategy for any school which wants to have the resources needed for a first class education (for which you need families that require no aid) with a commitment to social justice (for which you need poor, and not just “low income,” families). However, I could be wrong about this. Perhaps the entire distributions are shifted?

Williams is, even among elite schools, somewhat extreme in pursuing this barbell approach. We have among the highest percentage of students from both the top 0.1% (2.8%) and from the bottom 20% (5.3%). And, as long as these students have very strong credentials — Academic Rating 1 or, maybe, 2 — I think that this is great thing.

Facebooktwitter
Comments Disabled (Open | Close)

Comments Disabled To "EOP II"

#1 Comment By alum 11 On January 24, 2017 @ 8:12 am

happy to see data back up my experience. no wonder no one at williams had any empathy towards traditional middle class concerns such as making enough money via employment to justify the cost of college–the poor kids went for free, and the rich kids had money to spare.

#2 Comment By Blind To Traditional Middle Class Concerns On January 24, 2017 @ 4:07 pm

Are we reading the same article? The “low-income” cut off at Williams is 75k, already around 65th percentile for household incomes. Everyone at and below that line is probably getting an admissions preference and a handsome aid package. If you’re bemoaning the fates of people making, say, 100k, so the top quarter of earners, then that’s the rich. Not the mega rich, but nonetheless the very well off.

I have way more sympathy for the poor students here who had to struggle their entire lives than I do for rich students whose parents have to tighten their belts for a few years to send their kid to Williams at full cost over Hamilton at half tuition.

#3 Comment By CJ On January 24, 2017 @ 10:37 pm

“And, as long as these students have very strong credentials — Academic Rating 1 or, maybe, 2 — I think that this is great thing.”

I seriously doubt that the preferential admits (first gen, low income, recruited athletes, veterans, targeted minorities) are the academic equals (AR 1) of the rest of the admitted students. Is there any data that supports that claim?

#4 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On January 24, 2017 @ 11:32 pm

> Is there any data that supports that claim?

You are certainly correct on average. (And the other smaller category you left out are development admits.) Indeed, by definition, recruited (“tipped”) athletes are not AR 1. There are some AR 1 who fall in the other categories, especially among international students.

But, off hand, I don’t know of any data on magnitude. For example, if there are, roughly, 35 — 40 students from bottom quintile income families, how many are AR 1? I don’t know. (Of course, Williams admits many such students, but then we lose them to HYPS.)

#5 Comment By KSM On January 25, 2017 @ 8:37 am

seriously doubt that the preferential admits (first gen, low income, recruited athletes, veterans, targeted minorities) are the academic equals (AR 1) of the rest of the admitted students. Is there any data that supports that claim?

Only 15% of students are AR1; 27% are AR2 and the rest are below that. Williams and other highly selective schools have a number of institutional priorities in admissions—both hooks and academic standards. It is impossible to satisfy all of these priorities and achieve a degree of economic diversity even remotely resembling the country as a whole. Imagine a balloon that you squeeze in the middle; it bulges out at the ends where you’re not touching it. If the priorities in admissions are athletic recruits, legacies, URMs, and maintaining the same 25th-75th percentile split on ACTs as last year, then the thing that will not get addressed is economic diversity. Or addressed only at the margins, as in “only” 18% of students from the top 1%, vs. 23% at Midd.

http://ephblog.com/2005/10/28/Taylor-Thesis-V-Academic-Rating/