Colleges go after richer students

By Ashley Cook and Jamie Hufnagle
April 26, 2007

Charles Grugan

The American Dream of a college education is getting harder as richer kids more and more are able to go to college while poorer kids cannot. This trend has been growing over the past 40 years.

The family income of freshmen students is 60 percent higher than the national average, according to a study by the University of California at Los Angeles cooperative institutional research program. This is compared to 46 percent above average in 1971. Data collected from 1966 to 2006 shows freshmen changes in terms of characteristics, values, attitudes and behaviors.

The study recorded the answers of the high school graduates who will become the next batch of American college students. Freshmen are the most well-off since at least 35 years ago, according to an article on This study did not examine community college or for-profit schools.

Top-notch colleges are turning away from poor kids and focusing on rich ones. The report, called “The American Freshman: Forty-Year Trends 1966-2006,” shows that highly selective private colleges and public flagship universities are enrolling disproportionately fewer students who qualify for need-based aid, according to an article from Freshman students attending four-year private universities report higher median incomes that those four-year public universities.

“It seems the gap is widening,” Matthew Rowe, freshman elementary education major, said.

According to the report, 8.3 million first-year students at 1,201 four-year colleges and universities participated nationwide. Median parental incomes for students at private universities increased 15.7 percent to $83,500 from 1971-2006, with numbers adjusted for inflation.

According to the report, today’s freshmen are financially better off than ever before and the gap is widening.

I’m not surprised by the findings,” sophomore social work major Lauren Mattioni said. “It’s a trend that goes along with the society that we live in today.”

This study pinpoints the mid-1980s as a watershed period, according to USA Today. From 1983 to 1987, students reported that median family incomes shot up 21 percent to $76,100. The national average increased nine percent to $41,200 in inflation adjusted dollars, according to

Also included in the report are two developments in students’ attitudes toward life. The responses depended on one’s point of view about financial goals and altruism. Being well-off is students’ No. 2 priority, according to an article on This came second only to raising a family while helping others came in third, the highest it has been as a priority in 20 years.

Also noted in the report is the increased engagement in community service at the high school level. According to an article on, it was not clear how much of that was due to college admissions pressures and graduation requirements.

Ultimately, the financial findings in the report present significant information for college students.

“I hope that the parental income for students will continue to rise throughout the years,” freshman English major Jessica Gruber said. “It is definitely beneficial for students to be in such a stable situation when entering college.”

Ashley Cook and Jamie Hufnagle

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