Education: the Working Class Students


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Working class students really have it hard sometimes. They often have to deal with the rising cost of education, and social inequalities that take a toll on the working class and students of color. Here are just some of the facts that show the working class struggles through the years.

The price of higher education brings up a huge difficulty to students that come from less advantaged households, or towns. Although that is a big problem, a new study shows that it might not be the lack of money that is always making college tough for the working class students. While the financial stability for a college student is great, some working class students feel like they do not belong at times, and are missing the confidence that their middle class contemporary. Often this can impair their mental health and they feel like there is no place for them at the campus.

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There is no doubt that the working class student faces a large amount of obstacles in getting accepted to college in the first place. Students from poverty stricken backgrounds are 8.5 times less likely to win a spot at the most selective universities than those from a more wealthy background. Yet even when the working class students get accepted into an elite university, their problems do not stop there.

According to Nick Morrison, a freelance journalist specializing in education, “Working class students are more likely to drop out, less likely to graduate, and less likely to get a degree,” which means that the work that they put into climbing to the top and reaching to that elite college they want to go to is stopped and they can’t complete the climb to the top, which is very sad at times. Some reasons why working class students struggle, is not always about the lack of cash. As a matter of fact, financial support is not a problem sometimes, at least during term time. The problem is how they feel when they are there, and not whether or not they can afford to pay for the tuition of the university.

A report showed that three-fourths of the working class students did not feel like they really belong at the university. The report really showed the multiple ways that participated to working class students feeling like they really didn’t belong, at the university, including the lack of diversity amongst their peers. The different languages and traditions made it very difficult for the working class students to feel like they fit in. Some of the students felt sort of isolated in a way. Most universities are aware that working class students are not represented in higher education, and many take steps to try to solve that issue. But few pay much attention to helping these new students feel like they are at home.

Certainly, more students from similar backgrounds would help cope with the others and make them feel less isolated, but the college superiors need to look at other sorts of actions they can take, from learning traditions, and language. Learning some of the things that the working class students go through would help them feel more at home. Increasing the number of working class students who go to college is a very necessary and important step.

Data from the Brookings Institution’s Richard Reeves, shows that educational achievement is mostly dependent on the amount of education that your parents have. For everyone that says that America is the land of opportunity it is very hard for an individual to climb to the top. And things aren’t getting better. As many more Americans decide to go to college, the difference between wealthy and impoverished has been declining, and the value of a college degree is declining. It all begins in high school, where the less fortunate students often don’t get the sense of desire and hope to finish high school, and don’t end up getting their high school diploma. On the other hand the affluent kids are getting there diplomas. This is where things start getting a little alarming for college. Even when working class students graduate from high school and make it to college, they often tend to struggle compared to the more affluent students. Some of the reason there tends to be a gap like this, is because underprivileged families tend to go to colleges that have lower admission standards, and graduation rates. A majority of these schools do not have most of the resources, compared to high-end state universities that have mostly all the resources they need. There are also things about the college environment that brings down working class students. Some of the issue is the financial stability, but there is another thing that brings them down. The beliefs of the middle and upper class students and their beliefs. This sometimes creates a toxic environment and doesn’t let people enhance their performance.

Sara Goldrick-Rab wrote a report called “City of Broken Dreams”, which shows the different lives of students in Milwaukee. It showed us that most college students attend very local community colleges, or universities, a little more than three fourths students attend college within fifty miles from where they live, which means they can keep their relationship they have with their family and such. Students from Milwaukee were less well supported than other students in other state community colleges or universities and tended to succeed less. Once, going to Milwaukee cost is minimal, because of the sum of money granted by the government.

Students and families must use their savings and income, alongside with loans and grants to pay for the tuition bills. Goldrick-Rab really goes into detail with her research and describes some upsetting personal stories about other students and their experiences in college. She speaks about a girl named Alicia, who worked really hard and was very determined, but after spending eight semesters in school, she decides that she wants to drop out. She also writes about a man named Jose, who wanted to pursue a degree in criminal justice, and always thought about joining the police force, but he was a father to a newborn. He worked really hard and in the end obtained his associates degree. He went to pursue his bachelor’s degree, but was already halfway using up his lifetime pell grant dispersion. The very last one Goldrick-Rab speaks about is this girl named Anne, and she had taken a job at a retail shop, and was going to school. She was working, because she needed to help her mom pay the bills, and the rest went to her savings, but she would try to make a lump sum of money, because she did not want to get kicked out of her housing unit. After six years of working and attending school, she just gave up for no reason.

Overall, college tuition and fees rose 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 and the normal family income only rose 147 percent. Students borrowing money have more doubled in the last ten years, and students from poverty-stricken families, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more wealthy families. There is a report called “measuring up 2008,” that compares the net college costs. It includes the years tuition, room, and fees, subtracting financial aid. In 2007, the value of a four-year public university came to be twenty eight percent of the normal family income, while a four-year private university came out to be seventy six percent of the normal family income. The amount of earnings needed to pay for college, even with financial aid, has been enlarging very rapidly for lower-income families. The very big probability of tuition increases next year is very frightening.

In a different report released by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, “public universities acknowledged the looming crisis, but painted a different picture,” which is stating that universities know the struggles of a working class student and still choose to ignore it at times.The report also spoke about how families are smarter by choosing community colleges as their kids route, because the average tuition fees are around 3200 dollars compared to an elite university costing families up to and even more that 30,000 dollars. While the price of tuition has been steadily rising at public universities, that has largely been to make up for declining state appropriations. According to reports by 2036, the cost of tuition would go from eleven percent of the family budget to a whopping twenty four percent of the family budget, and that’s pretty huge considering that that’s nearly a fourth of their income.

In conclusion, the working class students have faced a lot of hardships along the way, not only because they are poverty-stricken, but also because of their other peers, and their social awkwardness with other people. 

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