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The Status of Low-Income Students at Selective Colleges

July 12, 2018

A study published by the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday suggests that the proportion of low-income students at selective colleges is edging up, not decreasing, as some other recent studies have suggested. Instead, the paper argues, the group that has been most squeezed out of selective private and public colleges in the last decade has been those students in the middle socioeconomic quartiles.

But the impression most readers of the study are likely to be left with is that students from the top quartile continue to dominate enrollments at the 200 most selective colleges and universities. In 2015-16, the latest year for which AEI had data from the Education Department's National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey, 54.2 percent of undergraduates at those colleges were from the top 25 percent of the socioeconomic ladder, while the remaining students were split fairly equally from the other three quartiles.

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Doug Lederman

Doug Lederman is editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed. He helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his wife, Kate Scharff, in Bethesda, Md.

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