‘First Generation’ documentary raises the question: Is higher education only for the wealthy?

As a former admissions officer at Columbia University, I used to spend the fall traveling to high schools and college fairs spreading the gospel of our world-class education from which I had also benefited, says TakePart. Although the majority of my visits were to elite private schools or well-funded suburban public schools that sent scores of applications to the university every year, I made it a point whenever I could to schedule sessions at urban or rural public schools. My hope was to find promising students that might otherwise be overlooked by our traditional recruiting efforts.  While most of the low-income students I met had close to a perfect academic record, later in the year when their applications arrived on my desk, they looked very different from their wealthier peers. They had lower test scores, fewer if any AP courses, and unpolished essays that made it difficult to justify a coveted spot at our institution. From what the statistics implied, this was not an uncommon scenario. In the United States, less than 10 percent of college students come from the lowest income quartile, and at the 146 most selective schools that number drops to under 3 percent…

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