College Board/National Journal Poll

Egalitarian College Hopes, to a Degree

62 percent believe money and influence give an edge to attending a top school, though more Asians and Hispanics believe they have a fair shot at one.

USC students on their way to attend a memorial service on April 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California, for the two Chinese graduate students who were shot to death near campus last week. US authorities have offered $200,000 in reward money to find whoever killed the two students, after more funds were pledged on April 17. Los Angeles has a large Chinese and Chinese-American population, including many overseas students and certain areas of the city are known for frequent gun violence. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sophie Quinton
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Sophie Quinton
Nov. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Amer­ic­ans see a class di­vide in high­er edu­ca­tion but don’t ne­ces­sar­ily be­lieve that need-based aid is the way to ad­dress it, ac­cord­ing to the latest Col­lege Board/Na­tion­al Journ­al Next Amer­ica poll.

Sixty-two per­cent of all re­spond­ents said they be­lieve that stu­dents from wealthy and in­flu­en­tial fam­il­ies have a bet­ter chance of get­ting in­to Amer­ica’s best col­leges. Yet 59 per­cent also ap­prove of the move some states and in­sti­tu­tions have made to provide less need-based fin­an­cial aid and more mer­it-based fin­an­cial aid. (Stephanie Stamm)

Asi­an and His­pan­ic re­spond­ents took a slightly more egal­it­ari­an view of high­er edu­ca­tion than their white and black coun­ter­parts: 39 per­cent of Asi­ans and 37 per­cent of His­pan­ics said all stu­dents have an equal chance of get­ting in­to top col­leges, based on their aca­dem­ic qual­i­fic­a­tions. Black re­spond­ents were most likely to be­lieve that ad­mis­sion was class-based, with 68 per­cent say­ing that wealthy stu­dents have an ad­mis­sions ad­vant­age.

But des­pite their sense that wealth mat­ters, 64 per­cent of black re­spond­ents ap­prove of shift­ing re­sources to­ward mer­it-based aid. His­pan­ic re­spond­ents were most strongly op­posed to a shift to­ward mer­it-based aid, with 39 per­cent op­pos­ing such a change.

A lot of mer­it schol­ar­ships are es­sen­tially lures: dis­counts for wealthy, high-achiev­ing stu­dents that col­leges need to re­cruit to boost their bot­tom lines and their U.S. News and World Re­port rank­ings, Wash­ing­ton Monthly re­por­ted last month. Nearly a fifth of stu­dents re­ceiv­ing mer­it schol­ar­ships have less than a B av­er­age, the magazine re­por­ted; from 1995 to 2007, the num­ber of full-time, first-time en­rollees re­ceiv­ing mer­it aid at private col­leges jumped from 24 to 44 per­cent.

The Col­lege Board/Na­tion­al Journ­al Next Amer­ica Poll, con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, sur­veyed 1,272 adults ages 18 and older from Oct. 14-24, in Eng­lish and Span­ish, through land­lines and cell phones. It in­cludes over­samples of 245 Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, 229 His­pan­ics, and 107 Asi­an-Amer­ic­ans; the poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.9 per­cent­age points for the over­all sample, with lar­ger er­ror mar­gins for the sub­groups. The poll is one com­pon­ent of Na­tion­al Journ­al’s Next Amer­ica pro­ject, which ex­am­ines how chan­ging demo­graphy is chan­ging the na­tion­al agenda.

First in a five-part series Click here to down­load the topline res­ults from the poll and ac­cess in your down­load folder.

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