The Smartest Poor Kids

Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s Director of the National Economic Council, recently said that American income inequality continues to plague higher education. According to a Reuters article, only “10 percent of students in leading colleges and universities come from families in the lower half of the income distribution.”

Summers spoke about higher education at Yeshiva University last week. What’s more, Summers said, “the attendance, the gaps in attendance and graduation rates between children of poor, middle class and rich families, have risen over the last generation.” Summers is something of an authority on higher education, having briefly served as the president of Harvard University.

The gaps in educational attainment have not just persisted but have actually gotten worse in recent years. And as Larry Gladieux was once quoted as saying in a 2004 article article in the American Prospect, “the dumbest rich kids have as much chance of going to college as the smartest poor kids.” Given this, it may be time to look at this situation more critically and consider making bigger changes than just “increases in assistance for scholarships,” which Summers pointed to as the portion of President Obama’s budget designed to address income inequality.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer