Last week, The Upshot section of The New York Times released infographics of a recent study that analyzed the economic backgrounds of undergraduate students based on anonymous tax filings and tuition records. The individual analysis of NYU revealed that not only three-fifths of its student body come from the top 20 percent of the income bracket, but also that nearly half of the students — an astounding 48 percent — come from the top 10 percent. What is worrisome is not just that the highest shares of students come from the top income brackets in the state of New York, but also the subsequently low economic mobility rate — which represents the number of students who came from poor backgrounds but ended up as rich adults — of 11 percent.
The study emphasize the pivotal role that colleges play in economic mobility — the power to move higher within socioeconomic levels — however, with the rising tuition costs of NYU, our university could be repelling those efforts to challenge the financial status quo. While NYU has one of the highest percentages of enrollment of students from low- and middle- income families, its percentage of students from the bottom 40 percent of the income bracket is still low — around 14 percent — and five points below the highest percentage of said enrollment. This small percentage reflects the very little effort NYU puts into making the university accessible.
The highest mobility rates belong to less selective public universities, which unfortunately suffer from severe budget cuts and usually fall short in providing their students with a pleasant college experience. Those public universities are a common choice for students from the bottom 20 percent of the income bracket. While the students usually perform better financially than their parents once out of school, lower-income students who attend more selective schools do even better than the average low income student. NYU must attract low-income applicants with practical ways for affording tuition costs by expanding its financial aid and access to scholarships, igniting the ideals of opportunity and breakthrough.
Education is the gateway to opportunity, and having access to it guarantees more agency for the future. But it is presently a luxury instead of a right, therefore NYU must address its affordability issues by presenting more solutions. All universities must decrease tuition costs to diminish the financial gap between students. Social class should not be a factor in who can attend higher education institutions. It is essential that colleges — including NYU — encourage the pursuit of an academic career for all students by nurturing a higher economic mobility rate and an environment where financial differences are indistinct.
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