by Max Brantley
The New York Times leads off today with a story on the widening gap between rich and poor in education.
Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.
... The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.
Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points.
While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead.
Now the Arkansas wackjob. We've long known that financial impediments are the biggest reason students don't enter college or drop out after they do enter. But Republican Rep. Nate Bell has recently floated the idea of making college dropouts repay lottery scholarships if they don't graduate unless they have an ironclad excuse of some sort. The general imperative of making ends meet, avoiding starvation or accepting an economic betterment route for short-term family reasons wouldn't qualify. Faced with this potential punishment, it's a sure bet many students wouldn't take the money and enter college in the first place. This is another bit of wing nuttery that shouldn't go very far, but with the Tea Party crowd, you just never know.