People always talk about the lack of racial diversity at Boston College. But what about socioeconomic diversity? We learn as much from other races as we do from people with different financial statuses.
Today, smart, hard working, high-performing teens, who are from low-income families, are underrepresented at colleges across the United States. Many top colleges with a substantial endowment do send many letters of acceptance to children of low-income families, especially through the Pell Grant, a need-based grant for undergraduate studies. However, not only are there a large number of top colleges who are not giving out enough Pell Grants but the Pell Grant itself has not improved to accommodate the rising cost of education. According to an article by the New York Times, the Pell Grant now pays only 14 percent of a student’s tuition, fees and housing.
What many people do not appreciate about BC is that it is one of about 50 schools in the U.S. that operates on a need-blind application system. This means that during the application system the admissions department does not look at your financial aid needs until you have been accepted to the school. Your financial needs play no role in whether or not you are accepted to BC. So, while BC often gets the stereotype of “rich white kids,” their policy on financial aid is actually something to be proud of. While other qualified students across the country are being rejected from top colleges because of their financial needs, BC looks at everything except that. You are accepted to this school based on your academic ability and your integrity.
Other colleges do not intentionally or solely reject students based on financial need, but it is a factor. The problem is that the resources for financial aid are limited and depend in part on a college's endowment. Over the past year, the U.S. Board of Education has tried to augment those resources with a new program called First in the World. First in the World grants “will fund the development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies at colleges and universities that improve college attainment and make higher education more affordable for students and families,” according to the U.S. Board of Education. It adds a whopping $75 million to financial aid resources. As the cost of a college education rises with each passing year, the number of bright students able to afford their top choice colleges declines.
Many top colleges boast a geographically, racially and religiously diverse population but the reality is that most of those students come from affluent families. In response to not being able to afford top colleges, fewer economically disadvantaged students are even applying. It has been shown that this issue can be tackled effectively with more information regarding qualification requirements as well as application fee waivers. Beyond that, the next steps would be to pressure top colleges to improve their socioeconomic diversity and provide more merit aid. The government and Board of Education should continue to work to return the education system to a meritocracy.