Recap of Tuesday, looking ahead to Thursday

We started class today with a think-pair-share activity and ended up with these questions/observations about the reading on the board:

  • The lack of low-income students at elite schools is due to lack of/poor outreach and lack of information/access not the lack of financial aid resources.
  • Emory has the second highest percentage of low- and middle-income students among elite colleges, but is #1785 in mobility rate. Compare the percentage of low & middle income students with schools that have a similar endowment to Emory.
  • People’s income is basically set at the age of 36?!
  • Choice of major doesn’t seem to be the determining factor with regard to income mobility
  • How might we work to include this assessment of social mobility in the college rankings?

Then we stepped back and asked what was missing from that list or what sorts of questions occur to them and we added these to the list and added these additional points. (I have expanded a bit from the shorthand I wrote on the board, but I think I’m summarizing accurately. If not, leave a comment with corrections or additions):

  • Is there a method for analyzing the economic status (in childhood? in present day?) of faculty at these schools, and might that be a key to understanding which colleges are successful at improving social mobility of students?
  • Does faculty military service play some role in stratification?
  • What are the motives of the highly selective colleges? Are they really making an effort to bring in low income students or are they merely pretending to do so? Aren’t there competing concerns for highly selective schools to maintain their status as “selective” that might be undermined if they actually did accept significant numbers of low income students? Are there ways to encourage selective colleges to make more effort in this arena without damaging their perceived prestige?
  • What are the motives/goals of higher education in general? Is upward mobility a key goal of higher education as a system? Should it be?
  • Is there something wrong or suspect about evaluating colleges based on class mobility among graduates? Is the amount of money graduates earn really the most important thing to know about colleges? Does it take discussions about higher education in a strange direction to pursue these sorts of studies?
  • Is there a way to understand how colleges handle the applications processes and what sort of motives and assumptions underlie that process? How does implicit bias in the application process factor into these discussions?

For Thursday, look at the Equality of Opportunity Project site, especially “Which colleges in America help the most children climb the income ladder?” and the underlying data, but just in general also, look around.

Think about these questions:

  • What are some of the underlying assumptions or methods of this project? If you notice problematic approaches or biases or unexamined questions that seem important, absolutely make note of those.
  • How does the Equality of Opportunity Project present its findings on the site? You might think about any of the media literacy questions and topics we’ve been using to evaluate publications for the podcasts.
  • In what ways do your own personal experiences relate to this data that we’re examining? I will not force any of you to reveal your parents’ income or your class status, but there is room in our analysis to include personal narratives and subjective experiences from ourselves and people we know as we move forward. If nothing else, those subjective experiences will influence how we approach these questions. So, please be mindful of the ways in which your experiences are or are not reflected in the data or how the data pushes you to analyze your own experiences. And please also consider whether and to what extent you will be comfortable sharing any aspects of your personal experiences as we talk together or as you publish about this work.
  • What sort of artifacts might you like to see coming out of this data. What should it look like, what might it include, how might it be framed or organized?
  • Since it will be unmanageable for all of us to be working on this as one big group, we’ll likely subdivide into groups. Please start thinking about how best to subdivide. And think about what skills and interests you have with regard to this project and how you might apply those skills.

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