Call them the top 4 percent: elite private colleges and universities that together sit atop three-quarters of the higher education terrain’s endowment wealth.
Among that group of 138 of the nation’s wealthiest colleges and universities, four in five charge poor students so much that they’d need to surrender 60 percent or more of their household incomes just to attend, even after financial aid is considered. Nearly half have enrollment rates of low-income students that place them in the bottom 5 percent nationally for such enrollment.
These findings come from a new report released by the Education Trust, which noted that while these places of higher learning possess endowments of at least $500 million each, few are spending that largess at anywhere near the rate they could to ease college costs for talented low-income students. The report called many of these schools “playgrounds for the children of the wealthiest in our country” with leaders who “have mostly chosen not to prioritize educating students from low-income families.”
The high cost of attending “prices out many low-income students, funneling them to institutions that are less selective and have far fewer resources,” the report’s authors said.
Endowments are tax-exempt funds, including donations and investments, that colleges and universities manage over many years to pay for a wide range of expenses, such as research, salaries and student financial aid. Unlike other nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities aren’t obligated to spend at least 5 percent of their endowments on mission-related expenses.