Higher education helps individuals raise themselves from the lowest economic rungs in society. While highly selective universities offer great benefits to the relatively small percentage of lower income students that they accept, it turns out that the less selective institutions that do the bulk of that important work actually do a better job of it, as several recent articles point out.

Here’s an Education Dive piece https://www.educationdive.com/news/report-workhorse-colleges-should-consider-risk-sharing/552111/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202019-04-05%20Higher%20Ed%20Education%20Dive%20Newsletter%20%5Bissue:20269%5D&utm_term=Education%20Dive:%20Higher%20Ed that offers a quick look at this situation.

For a more detailed take, here’s some of the research referenced in the above piece: https://www.aei.org/publication/is-the-university-next-door-the-way-to-upward-mobility/ and here’s the whole PDF: https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Is-the-University-Next-Door-the-Way-to-Upward-Mobility.pdf

The research talks about “workhorse” universities, the schools next-door, so to speak, and it underlines the point we’ve been making here the last several weeks: donors interested in doing something significant about social mobility for America’s poorest college students can get a lot more bang for the buck by supporting state universities and community colleges than by pouring more money into the Ivy League-level schools and flagship research universities.

Recently I suggested that alumni from those elite schools consider giving their alma mater half of what they might otherwise give them so that they can donate the other half to a nearby state university or community college. For instance, they might give to a fund for needy students at a nearby CC.

The other night at dinner, my Penn grad friend told me he thought the idea made a lot of sense. Now, if we can get this idea to catch fire, we could all see higher education make an even greater impact in all socio-economic levels of society. That would be a real turning point for this country.


Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the “Turning Points” weekly blog on nedbachus.com. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.