For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

Dec 24, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

It bears repeating: enrolling in university isn't a ticket out of poverty because the fact of being poor itself undermines a person's ability to succeed. Hence this NY Times article describing several inpoverished students who ended up with large studen loan debts, but little else. "Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net." People in poverty need more than free or low-cost earning, though it helps, and it takes some of the risk out of study. They need a broader array of social supports, and most of all, a society determined to help them out of poverty, rather than blame them for being in it. But I see no sign higher education as a sector has any real interest in that.

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