At top colleges, diversity not just black-white

** CORRECTS ANNUAL TUITION FIGURE TO $52,000 INSTEAD OF $40,000 ** In a April 22, 2011 photo, prospective Washington University tour the campus in St. Louis. An annual price tag that tops $52,000 aside, Washington University's commitment to luring more low-income students rivals if not exceeds that of most other elite American colleges. The school's financial aid director personally calls each Pell Grant-eligible student who is admitted for example but among the nation's 50 wealthiest schools, WashU ranks dead-last when it comes to low-income students, with fewer than 6 percent of its 8,500 undergraduates coming for poor families. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — An annual price tag that tops $52,000 aside, Washington University’s commitment to luring more low-income students is hard to question.

Its financial aid director makes a personal enrollment pitch to each Pell Grant-eligible student who gains admission. The highly selective private school gave out nearly $70 million in scholarships to nearly 60 percent of its undergraduates last year. And the school regularly welcomes academically talented high schoolers with disadvantaged backgrounds, from Chicago public school students in the Target Hope pre-college academy to the 500 minority students in the high school Class of 2011 who enjoyed an all-expenses paid glimpse at campus life one recent weekend.

But the 158-year-old school ranks dead-last among the nation’s 50 wealthiest schools when it comes to enrolling low-income students. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education review of federal data found that fewer than 6 percent of the school’s roughly 8,500 undergraduates received Pell Grants, which are generally limited to students whose family income is below $40,000. Over the past several years, despite its best efforts, those percentages have actually declined slightly.

“The challenge for us is always, will they enroll?” said John Berg, associate vice chancellor for undergraduate admissions.

WashU’s struggles to recruit more qualified students from poor families mirror those of other elite public and private universities, even as a growing chorus of higher education experts suggests that when it comes to affirmative action on campus, class — not race — is the more entrenched dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.

In general, recent efforts to improve college access for low-income students tend to succeed more often in community colleges and less selective state schools, experts say. And if the more selective schools don’t bend their admissions standards, that can mean cut-throat competition for the comparatively few poor students with the necessary academic chops.

“A meritocratic system would provide a lot of affirmative action to economically disadvantaged students who beat the odds and a little bit of affirmative action based on race,” said Richard Kahlenberg, an author and education researcher with The Century Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank. “Yet today’s colleges and universities do the opposite; providing substantial preferences based on race and virtually no preferences based on class.”

The Chronicle review found that less than 15 percent of undergraduates at the 50 colleges and universities — both public and private — with the largest endowments received Pell Grants in 2008-09, the most recent year for which federal Department of Education statistics are available.

That’s an improvement of less than one percentage point from five years earlier, a time when many elite schools began making a concerted effort to boost the ranks of poor students By comparison, about 26 percent of students at non-selective public four-year schools receive Pell Grants.

Among the wealthiest schools, the Pell Grant rates range from 5.7 percent at Washington University in St. Louis to 30.7 percent at the University of California-Los Angeles.

At Harvard just 6.5 percent of undergraduates received Pell Grants, the Chronicle reported.


Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:39

Communications scholarship open

Alaska Professional Communicators are offering two $1,000 scholarships for students planning a career in communications and majoring in any phase of public communications, including public relations, advertising, radio-television, video and print.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:39

Thank you from Big Brothers Big Sisters

Thanks to the City and Borough of Juneau tax revenue and the CBJ Activities Grant, five big and little matches in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program enjoyed an afternoon of free skating at the Treadwell Ice Arena!

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:38

Thank you from the American Red Cross of Alaska

On Feb. 17, 2017 we celebrated our 100-year anniversary as the American Red Cross of Alaska. It was very important to us to kick-off the year in Juneau as the original Red Cross of Alaska Charter was in Juneau. We are so happy we did! We have so many people to thank for making the evening not only fun, but heart-warming as well. We first have to thank the volunteers that worked so hard. Thank you to Buddy Custard, board member extraordinaire, for all of your guidance, humor, and hard work. Thank you Teresa Maria Abella for asking Senator Egan to be our Honorary Chair, for plastering the town with posters, for your fundraising efforts, your excitement, your photography, and just in general for being such a blessing to the Red Cross team. Senator Egan and Jesse Keihl, what can we say? You were amazing and helpful and patient. I will miss our meetings and the laughter that always ensued. We would be very remiss if we did not thank Governor Walker for giving us your time and for sharing your Red Cross story. Your commitment and support are deeply appreciated and we were touched beyond measure by your decision to attend and speak at our celebration. Lt. Governor Mallott and Mrs. Mallott, thank you for attending and supporting our mission. You bring such a sense of calm and grace wherever you go, we are humbled that you shared that with us. Last, but most definitely not least, we must thank all of our volunteers. The American Red Cross is a volunteer-run organization with only 14 staff for the entire state of Alaska. We could not help the hundreds of Alaskans that we do without volunteers. Our volunteers are the ones that get up at 2 a.m. when we receive a call about a house fire. They leave their homes and families to help others if there is a large disaster either in Alaska or in some other part of the country. I have said it many times, and will continue to say it: Red Cross volunteers are the best in the world. They are selfless, kind, generous people who only want to help. For this celebration there are a few in particular we need to thank: Karen Petersen, Peter Chaille, June Johnson, Joyce Levine, Michelle Brown, Carolyn and Dan Garcia, Chip Wagoner, Rebecca Trude, Rick Janelle, Patricia and Kyle Lamson, Bob Bassett, and T Iputi! Thank you Juneau and Southeast Alaska for supporting the American Red Cross of Alaska’s first 100 years; we look forward to the next 100!

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:38

Planetarium presents ‘Aurora’

The Marie Drake Planetarium will present “Aurora” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, followed by “The Sky Tonight” on the Spitz projector. The event is free and for all ages.

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