Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 2.

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This is a highly misleading graphic. It suggests that Williams is much more socio-economically diverse today than it was in 2005. This is untrue! (Note that I am not accusing Love of being purposely misleading. EphBlog loves Provost Love! I suspect that he has too poor (?) an opinion of his audience to confront them with the full richness of the data he has on this topic.)

1) Show us more data! Although it is useful to see the percentage of Pell Grants, Williams has, easily accessible, much more data on socio-economic diversity. If you really want to inform the audience, share as much of the data as you (easily) can.

2) Start with the percentage of each class that is “Socio-Ec 1,” also known as SEC1. Recall that, for decades, Williams has been tracking socio-economic diversity by tagging every applicant’s status as SEC1 if a) neither parent has a BA and b) the student applies for financial aid. This may not be the best measure of economic diversity, but it is the one that Love has the most data for and the one that has had the most impact on admissions. Alas, this time series won’t show nearly as happy a story as the one on Pell Grants, but Love owes his audience the whole truth.

3) Show a line graph of inflation-adjusted Eph family incomes for a couple of places in the income distribution. Williams has great data on family income, again going back decades, for all students who apply for financial aid. So, we know the 100th, 200th, 500th poorest families (out of 2,000) each year. Show us that data.

3) This five part series on Pell Grants (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) from last fall is useful background.

4) Recall that Pell grant percentages of have been increasing for reasons unrelated to changes in the socio-economic diversity of the student body.

At Ivy-Plus colleges, the fraction of students receiving Pell grants increased from 12.1% to 16.8% between 2000-2011, an increase that has been interpreted as evidence of growth in low-income access at these colleges. In Online Appendix F, we show that the apparent discrepancy between trends in Pell shares and our percentile-based statistics, which show little or no change in low-income access, is driven by two factors. First, Congress raised the income eligibility threshold for Pell Grants significantly between 2000 and 2011, mechanically increasing the share of families that qualified for Pell grants. Second, as noted above, incomes fell sharply during the 2000s at the bottom of the distribution, further increasing the number of families whose incomes placed them below the Pell eligibility threshold. We estimate that the changes in eligibility rules mechanically increased Pell shares at Ivy-Plus colleges by approximately 2.9 pp from 2000-2011, while the decline in real incomes increased Pell shares by approximately 2.5 pp (Online Appendix Figure IX). Together, these changes fully account for the observed increase in Pell shares. Accounting for these factors, the Pell data imply that there was no significant change in the parental income distribution of students at Ivy-Plus colleges between 2000-2011.

The same is almost certainly true at Williams.

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