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A Chronicle Reporter Wrote a Book About the Higher-Ed Crisis. These 5 Things Surprised Her the Most.

By Goldie Blumenstyk, The Chronicle of Higher Education

College is often seen as central to the American Dream, a pathway to upward mobility for rich and poor alike. But the numbers show higher education is a road taken far more often by the haves than the have-nots.

Many Chronicle readers know that, of course, as did I, as a reporter who has covered enrollment and other higher-education issues for more than 25 years. But even I was taken aback when I saw the precise figures: In the United States today, a person from an upper-income family is nearly nine times as likely to have earned a bachelor’s degree by age 24 than is someone from a poor family, according to the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.

The size of that gap sticks with me still—a simple and stark reminder of the failings of a higher-education system that spends hundreds of billions of dollars in public and private money annually, aiming to be a meritocracy.

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