EDITORIAL: Appreciate Brandeis’ commitment to economic diversity
On Jan. 18, the New York Times published a piece charting data demonstrating where students from different economic backgrounds attend college. This data, initially collected by the Equality of Opportunity Project and based on millions of anonymous tuition records and tax earnings, shares statistics regarding discrepancies in access to higher education across various economic strata and profiles economic diversity of universities nationwide.
According to the Times’ compilation of this research, Brandeis ranks No. 9 out of “elite colleges that enroll the highest percentage of low- and middle-income students.” The University, as of 2013, stands out as an exception to the general trend of elite universities across the country, enrolling 12.9 percent of its students from the bottom 40 percent of the income scale.
This board commends Brandeis for embracing economic diversity in its admissions, staying true to the University’s core values and working toward providing all its students — regardless of economic background — with an accessible, high-quality education.
Brandeis “seeks to build an academic community whose members have diverse cultures, backgrounds and life experiences” — an intention expressed in the Brandeis Diversity Statement. The University’s demonstration of economic diversity is a testament to its compliance with our core values.
Currently, approximately one-fourth of the country’s richest students attend an “elite college,” as stated in the Times piece, whereas “less than one-half of one percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families” are enrolled in an elite college.
But it’s not just the the students with lower incomes who benefit from an economically diverse campus. As written in its Diversity Statement, the University “believes that diverse backgrounds and ideas are crucial to academic excellence.” According to a University of Maryland-led study published in the June 2013 issue of the American Educational Research Journal, students who interact more with those from different socio-economic backgrounds also tend to have more contact with students from other races and diverse backgrounds. Such findings “indicate that both socioeconomic and racial diversity are essential to promoting a positive campus racial climate,” the researchers write. A campus with students from a variety of economic backgrounds helps to create a stronger and more tolerant campus as a whole.
If college campuses aim to be microcosms of society at large, committed to preparing their students for life beyond the confines of dormitories and dining halls, their student bodies should reflect the type of diversity that exists in this nation today. We encourage colleges across the country, including Brandeis, to continue embracing diversity on their campuses, in all respects, in order to provide students with the skills necessary to tackle the multifaceted society we live in today.