Flagship Universities' Financial Aid Policies Shortchange Poor and Minority Students

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The priorities of some of the nation’s most prestigious public universities are undermining the goal of helping more low-income and minority students attend and succeed in college. Our new report, “Opportunity Adrift: Our Flagship Universities Are Straying From Their Public Mission,” examines how well the flagships are serving the student populations of their respective states. The report also reveals a grievous imbalance in the way many of these institutions distribute financial aid to students.Opportunity Adrift
     Public flagship and research universities spend millions of dollars every year subsidizing wealthy students who don’t need aid, while providing inadequate support to low-income and minority students who do. Although low-income students receive higher grant awards than wealthy students on average, flagships spend almost exactly the same amount to aid students in the top two quintiles of family income as they do to aid students in the bottom two quintiles.

     In fact, the typical low-income student at these institutions is left with an “unmet” financial need equivalent to about 70 percent of his or her family’s annual income. Meanwhile, students at our leading public universities are looking less and less like the state populations these institutions were founded to serve.

     As a follow-up to “Engines of Inequality,” our 2006 study of access and success at flagship universities, “Opportunity Adrift” reveals how prestigious public institutions erect barriers to college enrollment and completion for low-income and minority students. Some flagships are stepping up to the challenge and are making great strides in ensuring access and success for the full range of students in their states. This report documents their performance and progress. Visit the Press Room for additional details.