Access to Elites


Pallais A, Turner S, Dickert-Conlin S, Rubenstein R. Access to Elites. In: Economic Inequality and Higher Education, Access, Persistence, and Success. New York: Russell Sage Foundation ; 2007. pp. 128-156.


Low-income students are significantly underrepresented at top colleges and universities, institutions perceived as important stepping stones to professional and leadership positions. This paper reviews the literature on the causes of this underrepresentation and addresses to what extent implementation of aggressive recruiting and generous financial aid by universities can reduce it. In particular, it examines recent initiatives by selective colleges to increase both financial aid and information provided to low-income students. While initial research and the popular press suggest that these programs succeed in their aims, we suggest caution in interpreting these results for two reasons. First, evaluation of these programs cannot separate a reshuffling of students among top universities from an increase in the total number of students attending selective institutions. Second, because these programs are often multi-pronged, it is difficult to isolate the effects of particular parts of the initiatives: for example, separating the effects of increased financial aid from those of changing admissions standards.

Last updated on 08/17/2017