Opportunity Insights recently released a report titled “The ‘Missing Middle’ at Ivy-Plus Colleges.” The group studied students with similar test scores but different household incomes, following the different colleges that these students attended. While many may assume that the study would find that students at “Ivy-plus” colleges, which includes the Ivy League, Duke University, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, tended to come from upper-middle-class or higher income students, the research suggests otherwise. 

They found that “middle-class students attend elite institutions at rates lower than students from the lowest income quintile.” 

Inside Higher Ed reports that: 

Researchers found that students whose parents were from the lowest income bracket made up 7.3 percent of students with a test score of 1400 who attended Ivy-plus colleges. That was slightly below the average for all income groups. Students whose parents had the highest incomes made up a larger share, at about 10.8 percent, which was above the average for all groups. 

But the students whose parent’s incomes are in the middle attended Ivy-plus colleges at rates much lower than the average, between 4.4 percent and 4.7 percent. This means that the middle-class students are underrepresented at elite colleges, and the report refers to them as the “missing middle.”

Previous studies, such as one by the American Enterprise Institute, have also found that the share of students from the middle class at the most selective colleges in the nation has been declining over time.

They explain the reasons for the trend by saying: 

It can be hard for middle-income families to afford higher education, particularly at private nonprofits, because their expected family contributions can be in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

While I was privileged to attend an Ivy-League myself, I observed this trend many times over. It appeared that most of my fellow students either came from wealthy families and never had to worry over money, much less refrain from participation in an event or trip because of lack of money. Others, celebrated first-generation college students or simply from a lower-income background, enjoyed enormous financial support from the University or Federal grants. In the bubble of the University, they too were protected from practical monetary concerns. 

Only a small number shared my experience–coming from a comfortable but not wealthy background and facing the reality that the University’s expected family contributions were beyond the practical realities of our parents. Despite the promises of “incredible financial aid support” and “graduation with no debt” made by some institutions, the experiences of those in the “missing middle” were often far from care-free, and these are the students that still attended an Ivy League school.

Inside Higher Ed continues: 

The report from Opportunity Insights analyzed what would happen if students with comparable test scores attended selective colleges at the same rate, regardless of their parents’ incomes. Researchers found that economic diversity would “rise significantly” in this scenario. The fraction of students in the bottom income quintile who attend selective colleges would rise from 7.3 percent to 8.6 percent. Those in the middle would get a boost of about 10 percentage points at selective colleges, from 28 percent to 38 percent. (my emphasis added).

In a world so hyper-focused on diversity, the middle class is often forgotten, not targeted like the wealthy but not worthy of any support or attention, unlike the lower-class. The reality is that attending any “Ivy-plus” institution gives more than a world-class education, it opens doors and networks that will support graduations far beyond graduation. 

As these elite universities reflect on the astronomical rates they charge their students, perhaps they will realize the disservice they are performing for the average American. 

Read the full article here