Elite Colleges Constantly Tell Low-Income Students That They Do Not Belong
In mid-March, the Justice Department charged 50 people for their alleged involvement in a scheme to influence college-admissions decisions through bribery and deception. The scandal, Clint Smith argued shortly after, provides an opportunity to examine the systematic ways universities amplify and exacerbate class differences between their students:
“Students from low-income backgrounds receive daily reminders—interpersonal and institutional, symbolic and structural—that they are the ones who do not belong.”
Smith cited The Privileged Poor, a new book by the Harvard University professor Anthony Abraham Jack that documents and disaggregates the experience of low-income students at elite colleges. The book includes such examples as a program in which students serve as janitors in their peers’ dorm rooms for pay, and another“program Jack calls ‘Scholarship Plus,’ which allows students on financial aid to attend events on campus that they might not have otherwise been able to afford”—provided they wait in a separate line for tickets.
I’m currently a first year at the University of Chicago, and I have definitely felt my share of imposter syndrome. I come from a low-income family of Latin American immigrants, and at UChicago, it’s so easy to feel like I don’t belong, especially because most people here are white, rich, or both.