Stanford University sociologist Sean F. Reardon’s recent study revealed a 40 percent increase in the difference between standardized test scores of high-income and low-income students.
The data indicates that financial status plays a pivotal role in American youth’s educational success. A University of Michigan study found a 50 percent increase in the gap between rates of college completion of students from the highest and lowest income brackets.
Chicano studies professor Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval said decreases in the availability of equal education have led to a concerning decline in social mobility.
“The ability to achieve the American dream, I think, is compromised by the dramatic increase in tuition,” Armbruster-Sandoval said. “It’s affecting everybody from every different racial background but I do think it is having a disproportionate impact on students of color who tend to come from working class backgrounds.”
According to Armbruster-Sandoval, disproportionate access to higher education will reduce the representation of various racial, ethnic and financial backgrounds in student bodies and skilled labor forces.
“The university, as a result of that, [will] become less diverse and in turn, the work force — particularly the higher echelons — will become increasingly less diversified, too,” Armbruster-Sandoval said. “There’s a big danger here; there’s a new form of racism that’s taking place that’s not what we used to see in [the] pre-1960s era, which was more in-your-face. Today, it’s much more covert and kind of hidden.”
According to black studies professor Christopher McAuley, the democratic foundation of university education is caving in as the system now favors more affluent students and neglects the need for equal opportunity among diverse populations.
“Higher education is becoming the elitist training that it was before,” McAuley said. “It seems like we’re going back to everything requiring money. Determining what services individuals can have — I feel like in many ways we’re going back to the 19th century. Instead of further democratization of services, we’re seeing services becoming far more exclusive, [bringing] implications of what it means to be a citizen.”
Third-year communication major AJ Espinosa said the growing gap between uneducated individuals and those fortunate enough to reach higher levels of academia is a pressing public concern.
“It’s an unfortunate situation and I hope that we can address and bring awareness to this evident gap,” Espinosa said. “I just hope that future generations have the same access [to education] I do.”
According to Armbuster-Sandoval, the university’s funding structure will also pinch middle-class students out of the system over time.
“It becomes who can afford to come here and it’s going to reproduce this class system that favors the wealthy and the affluent over everyone else,” Armbuster-Sandoval said. “The social repercussions are dangerous in the fact that if you’re a middle-class person, what’s your life going to be like if you can’t get a college education?”