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Telling Poor, Smart Kids That All It Takes Is Hard Work to Be as Successful as Their Wealthy Peers Is a Blatant Lie

stress07When it was revealed that low-income students face greater challenges in school and are far less likely than their wealthier peers to attend or graduate college, the message to this disadvantaged group of students was a simple one—work harder.

It was a new twist on the dreaded “work twice as hard to have half of what your peers have” mentality but it also seemed to just be an unfortunate reality in America.

But it isn’t often enough that the full picture of low-income students’ disadvantages is explored and unveiled to the very students who are trying to navigate that reality.

Many of these students do step up to the plate and work hard to obtain the type of academic scores that exceed expectations, but even that isn’t enough for them to overcome such daunting obstacles.

A 10-year study by the Department of Education that started in 2002 revealed that not only are low-income students often left struggling academically but even when they do excel in the classroom, their chances of obtaining a bachelor’s degree were still bleak when compared to their wealthy counter parts.

Even when wealthy students had average or below average scores, they still had a better chance of furthering their academic careers than low-income students who consistently earned stellar academic scores.

A vast majority of these low-income students did move beyond the high school halls to college campuses, but what happens after that is a often a disheartening tale.

“The problem is that most don’t finish, or settle for less than a bachelor’s degree, which of course limits their earning power later in life,” Slate’s Jordan Weissmann reported. “Sometimes they try to save money on tuition by attending community college, even though most two-year schools have a spotty track record when it comes to helping students graduate. Sometimes they get lost or overwhelmed in a college’s bureaucracy, because they don’t have educated parents who can help guide them along. Sometimes they try to work through school and simply can’t balance the demands of a job with their academics.”

Whatever the reason may be, even when low-income students do exactly what society has demanded of them—work harder than their peers in attempt to match their success—they are still slipping through the cracks when it comes time to earn a bachelor’s degree.

This eventually sets them up for economic disadvantages in the future and contributes to the ever-growing wealth gap that has been looming over America for far too long.

ladders-infographic-3And if you’re one of the many Americans that believes there isn’t much universities can do about that sad fact, you’re sadly mistaken.

America’s top-notch, elite universities have the money and funding to open their doors to low-income students and help guide them to graduation but they rarely decide to do so.

A report by Insider Higher Ed revealed that while Harvard University has an endowment of roughly $43 billion, making it the wealthiest college in the country, it hasn’t dedicated a significant amount of funding to making sure intelligent low-income students have the opportunity to fill their prestigious halls.

The trend is the same for other wealthy and prestigious universities across the country.

“Yale University and the University of Notre Dame have $25.4 billion and $9.5 billion in cash and investments, respectively, but had the lowest portion of Pell recipients among this group, at 12 percent,” according to the report that took a closer look at the country’s 10 wealthiest universities. “Columbia University, with cash and investments of $9.9 billion, enrolled the highest number of Pell recipients, at 30 percent. Harvard, with its $43 billion in wealth, trailed behind at 19 percent.”

All the numbers are below the national average of 36 percent.

Since students that graduate from such universities often go on to earn more than their peers, the lack of low-income students being welcomed to such universities only works to widen the income gap.

And, based on the research reported by Inside Higher Ed, these universities aren’t interested in doing much about it.

“We are spending the most money as a society educating the wealthiest people,” Ronald Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, told Inside Higher Ed. “The people who need help the most are the most disadvantaged. They end up going to the universities that spend the smallest amount per student.”

The result is an unfortunate and yet seemingly endless cycle that keeps low-income students trapped in poverty—regardless of whether or not they did manage to work twice as hard as their wealthy peers.

What people are saying

83 thoughts on “Telling Poor, Smart Kids That All It Takes Is Hard Work to Be as Successful as Their Wealthy Peers Is a Blatant Lie

  1. Adam Cook says:

    I disagree with it being a lie….
    why would I not tell a child to work hard to succeed. why can't they be as successful? how often do we hear stories of people rising from the bottom making their way to the top?

  2. Wirth Road says:

    I was very poor growing up. I work hard and I am now upper middle-class

  3. Dave Are says:

    Not all that often, really. And when you do hear about it, that's only because it's such an anomoly.

  4. Oc Barnett says:

    I disagree with the article if it's placing an "inferiority" tag on poor youth with potential. It states "not enough resources(out of control of student), no college educated parental guidance (out of control of student)," then states they are smart, but basically even if they put their smartness to hard work & FOCUS (the one thing they actually can control) that they are hopeless because the cycle is stronger than their ability….No.that's not true.I wouldn't pass that message on to a promising student….I do believe it is much more complex and more obstacles than realized and it's not just "get passing grades in classes and that's all there is to it", but it IS hard work and it is in things that are more than just academics….and before judging the Ivy League based on this article please read on their "No Loan Policies".

  5. Doug Todd says:

    Think "Ben Carson".

  6. Sue Reinhold says:

    I believe that Stanford's incoming freshman class is 20% first in their family to go to college. They are called 'First Gen' and they have special mentors hip and support all the way through.

  7. Trevor Bell says:

    Wirth Road Because it makes a difference as statistics consistently show. Even if you're poor, you still have more opportunities when you're white. And no, I'm not being "racist" against whites, I'm white too.

  8. Also sold you soul to the military industrial complex, hope you enjoy slaughtering innocents in the name of a new world order so you can be in the "middle class"!

  9. Gotta love a country where the stupid people run it and the stupid kiss their asses!

  10. Hard work doesn't have much to do with success in this country. And anyone who argues that fact is someone who thinks they are successful from hard work, but really it was luck.

  11. Hard work doesn't have much to do with success in this country. And anyone who argues that fact is someone who thinks they are successful from hard work, but really it was luck.

  12. YES we do, because we don't have connections and it seems the ones who get the golden opportunities are students newly migrated here from a more poor country and that's NOT FAIR to our students already here working hard to grasp that gold ring!

  13. Daijah Dowe says:

    I don't agree with this article don't like it at all. . Im a first generation student from a family of 5. Currently I am 21 have obtained 5 degrees by 20.

  14. Daijah Dowe says:

    I am far away from being just half oh what my peers are.

  15. Doug Todd A crazy sellout who gives nothing back and probably wishes he was white? No thanks.

  16. You're upper middle class in the USMC? Seems a stretch, since all you ever hear is enlisted personnel needing food stamps, etc.

  17. Working hard is one thing, money is another. I come from a poor working class background, my mom was on welfare for a number of years too. I did well in hs, got a bunch of scholarships, back in the day when they really had them, went to a private Jesuit institution (University of San Francisco) for a year then flunked out. It was overwhelming, I didn't know how to navigate it and I felt very out of place with all the rich white kids. I changed my major, went to City College of SF, worked part time and full time for awhile, and finally went on to SF State University where the working class culture of most of the students made me feel at home. All in all it took me 8 years to get my BA! Then I went to a different university and got my teaching credential. I was only able to do that because I lived with my grandmother, who helped support me when I couldn't work during student teaching. 10 years from graduating from hs and I finally began a career. Most of these studies don't even track people after that long. I'm NOT saying that since I did it, anyone can, because there's more to it than that. Not to mention that college isn't necessarily for everyone. Working in the trades can be just as fulfilling financially and emotionally. My younger brother, who dropped out and got his GED went on to work as a carpenter in the union in SF, then on to the elevator and escalator union. He often earns well over $100k, with overtime, which I will NEVER see. 24 years as a teacher, and he earns much more than me. Oh, well.

  18. Just because you had three square meals today doesn't mean that world hunger is solved. I'm also a very fortunate first-gen student from a low-income background and hold an advanced degree with no debt. This doesn't mean I am the norm. I try to share my network and the financial literacy I've learned. Not everyone has the same support or opportunities or raw luck. The wealth gap in our nation is real and we need to hold ourselves accountable to supporting the communities we came from.

  19. Wirth Road says:

    That is where I started my adult life after high school, almost thirty years ago. Articles like this one are destructive. EVERYBODY has the ability to improve their lot in life. Not a single person on this earth is trapped in any situation. It is wrong to tell teenagers the world is against them and there is nothing they can do about it.

  20. Angela M. Sanchez Well said, Angela.

  21. I often look to the story of my father who grew up dirt poor in rural Taiwan and had to help feed fertilize the family's vegetable garden with chicken poop as well as take care of his 7 younger siblings. Later on, he studied his butt off, got accepted into one of Taiwan's top universities, learned a completely new language and culture (in America), and is currently a professor teaching electrical engineering. Is it possible that he could have earned more and received a higher salary if he had a better socioeconomic background? Sure, but for my family, we are content.

  22. Why bring Harvard and these other supposed top universities into it? I too am from a very poor family and I am the first in my family to get a 4 year degree in over 100 years. It took me eight years to do it as well. I worked, struggled, and finally got through to get my degree.

    It is possible to do, and it does take a lot of hard work, and sacrifice. One problem is that this article whines about the "elite" universities when it has been shown time and time again that the difference post graduation is quite small in terms of earning power. I have an engineering physics degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and am quite proud of my school.

    These ivy league schools are horrendously expensive to attend and I would have never considered to do so. I work with graduates of these schools all the time and for the life of me don't get why you would demand that they do all these things for you other than going to a state school.

    The biggest disadvantage that people have is unrealistic expectations for what you demand others do for you….

  23. Cathy Kroohs says:

    Universities especially in the US have only gotten far more expensive, with costs rising faster than the cost of living. I don't know how the university in Taiwan charged, but here even for community college it is expensive and you need to be able to work at the same time – but wages have NOT gone up with the cost of living. And poor people are not going to get approved for school loans. I was fortunate; my parents could afford to send us to college, but it was a LOT cheaper then. Circumstances are not the same as in your father's day. Christy

  24. Cathy Kroohs says:

    Eileen, it sounds as though you are blaming kids who are just as poor and have even more barriers. Christy

  25. Cathy Kroohs says:

    There are a number of private universities that give a ton of tutoring and mentoring to their students – ONCE you get in. Of course, very few are selected. Christy

  26. Cathy Kroohs says:

    We are asking kids who are already working hard at their studies, hard at their jobs, and hard for their families to work even harder yet. The real "hard" in this seems to be the hearts of those who take their privileges for granted. The other "hard" is how the nation does not value education enough to make it affordable for everyone. Christy

  27. KJ Russ says:

    Thank you Gordon Taylor! I've been saying this for years, since I was in high school! I did well in school. I got deceit grades. I even took some accelerated classes (and did well in them). But I remember an incident when I was tenth grade very well: my English teacher started teaching us something, then she stopped because she said it was "review" and that we should already know it. I didn't ever remember being taught that stuff, but I took the initiative and "borrowed" the book she was teaching from. Now there was no way to know how to make-up for what I was "supposed to have learned", even though I tried, so I couldn't help but feeling like I was being sold short of an education. And I was reminded of that 8 years when I took a foreign language course at a community college: the young lady had a hard time in the class because didn't know the difference between a subject and an object. Our instructor broke down in the English language for us, since she wanted us to do well.

    I was poor growing up, and my mother didn't understand the entire process of me going off to school, so I spent my first couple of days in the financial aid office trying to make sure my tuition, room and board were going to be paid, because even though I had someone walk us through the it, my financial aid was not complete. It ended up costing me a lot of money out of pocket (that I really did not have), and a lot of grief my first couple of years. Eventually I dropped out (after accumulating student loan debt, of course) because I couldn't afford it anymore. When I returned to school, I read several books about financial aid, just so I could be prepared.

    These are the kind of uncharted waters that kids in poverty have to endure as they go off to college. I was in the land of the lost and I know for a fact that I was not the only one. I had to work hard, just to be sub par to my peers. I had to work harder just to be on the same level educationally with them. And I would find out, like Chris Rock said, I would have to fly to what they can walk to.

  28. KJ Russ says:

    You are entitled to your opinion and yes, every can change their situation in life, but it is in terms of "eventually" and "what did you have to endure" to get there. I was in the military also, and I took that path to pay for college back when I was 20. You don't know much slack I get, how many people DO NOT take me seriously until I tell them that I'm a veteran. I'm using my benefits so that I can have the future that I want, but the way I see, I have 4 strikes against me: I'm black, I'm a woman, I'm a single mother, and to top it off, I look like jail bait, so I'm constantly having to prove myself. Time and time again, I prove those for me and the naysayers wrong, but that's only when I get the opportunity. I rarely get the opportunity; even after I've earned it. And this is what I've gone through nearly my whole life, so these disadvantages are all too real. Disparity is real.

  29. KJ Russ says:

    It's not a lie, but it's not the reality for most folks either.

  30. Doug Todd says:

    "Probably"? How did you figure that out?

  31. Daijah, you are begging for money on GoFundMe to help you finish your education so how can you not agree with this article? It appears that you are a prime example of the challenges students from lower-income homes have!

  32. what if your child struggles hard to succeed to become a professional criminal? Meaning he becomes a politician.

  33. Adam Cook says:

    it's not an anomoly, and it can be reality if you choose to do so. kids come up from out of low income situations a lot of times if properly motivated. keyword: motivated.

  34. Associates degrees /certificates are explicitly excluded from the conversation by the author. And, honey, if you have a Go Fund Me account set up to pay your tuition, I assure you, you are a part of the conversation.

  35. IKR, Jen Braden Powell! I wanted to comment on the 5 'degrees' too, but it was too much to write…

  36. David Pierre says:

    It IS an anomaly. The chart shows it. Over a span of ten years, less than 10% out of the lowest quartile graduate. Are we seriously going to believe that 91% of the poorest group of people from an entire decade are unmotivated? There could be family problems, financial problems, health problems, accidents, all kinds of things that keep people from finishing college that's out of their control. It's not just hard work. It's resources and opportunity. The less money you have, the less you have of both of those things. Students have a higher chance of finishing when all they have to worry about is being a student. Build more resources and opportunity for them to succeed.

    You need to find more tangible ways to help those students because motivation hasn't been enough for ten years. But if you're fine with only 10% of the poor gaining the "chance" to compete with the rest of the already saturated college degree pool, and leaving the 90% to fend for themselves with being unqualified, than fine. We can just keep doing what we're doing.

  37. Cathy Kroohs So do state schools. Tutoring is not the province of private schools only.

  38. Dan Whitaker says:

    Cathy Kroohs Are you honestly trying to argue that the average American today has less opportunities then a subsistence farmer from rural Taiwan? Give me a break.

  39. Well it does explain how some really stupid people rise to positions of power and prestige without having a brain cell in their head.

  40. It's not just about making education affordable, but it has to have an attainable goal. We really slack in offering vocational opportunities for kids, especially bright kids. We hurdle the bright kids into expensive colleges, oftentimes, and they cannot complete those degrees. Sometimes there is stress for their parents, too, and that causes problems for the kids who aren't just juggling school with work, but who are juggling REAL responsibilities without much help.

    We could funnel these kids into viable opportunities for real work at the end of a year to two year program, often with paid internships (carpentry, for example). The bright kids could learn some business and could really see their hard work pay off for them. The economy is already flooded with educated kids, but we act as though learning to be an electrician, carpenter, auto mechanic, HVAC worker (and yes, for GIRLS too) is something to be ashamed of rather than something ti use creativity, ingenuity, and intelligence.

    Schools push college, college, college, and even though there ARE vocational programs, there is very little guidance for that. How do kids pay for it after high school? Where do they find jobs now? There are ways, and we could see many more of these kids enter viable careers shortly after high school with plenty of room for growth and income potential. High school counselors do little to explore alternative, practical avenues for these kids, and they rarely consider how income and family dynamics could interfere with the completion of a full-on four year academic degree. BA degrees are almost worthless in many cases, as true professional degrees often require graduate and post-graduate studies.

    These kids often don't have parents who are professors, doctors, lawyers, journalists, researchers, architects, engineers, psychologists, Etc. They often don't even know what a "career" is! What do they study? What they "like?" They are often sold the idea that college will get them out of poverty, but they soon learn that they don't even know where to look for a job? What does one do with a B.A. in psychology or natural sciences anyway? By they time they've expended their student aid while working and struggling with family stress, they fall out, often with student loans.

    As a nation, we don't seem to even GET why these bright young kids don't make it to their junior year in college/university.

  41. I have to agree with this on a personal level. Even though I had the academic credentials and a scholarship as a result, my parents had no experience or financial ability to even give me the slightest help. The scholarship was for an out of town school. Paying my own way to stay at home in a local college was impossible financially. Working in a strange city was made even more difficult by a college administration that discouraged working off campus. I made it through a full year before leaving. If I had had a stipend or any way to supplement my non-existent income, I might have stayed.
    When a student has to worry about were the money for basics like personal care products like toothpaste or shampoo come from, how much it will cost for a bus ticket to go home for Thanksgiving, a degree is a distant dream.
    Those who have made it are not the norm by any means. Those who have not lived it are clueless as to the obstacles and stresses. It becomes even harder when you have family urging you to "get a job" and help with expenses at home. The guilt is a killer of dreams.

  42. If you really had the 5 degrees you claim, then you would know that the information you provided does nothing to support your position. If anything, you've given everyone a reason to think your claim is a lie.

  43. I can definately relate. Although I haven't even had the chance to have even one year at University

  44. Paul Haines says:

    The schooling isn't even half the work, or half as hard as the rest of your life will be. "I got my bachelor's degree. Yay! The hard work's over! It's smooth sailing from here on out!"

    BWAAHAHAHAHAAA! Life hasn't even begun to fuck you yet. Buckle up, sweetheart!

  45. David Pierre says:

    I had a problem with this article not sourcing any of the studies and I needed to fact check these abysmal numbers. I just want to say that nothing's actually wrong here, it's just not knit together right. I was led into thinking that the 10 year study it's mentioning corresponds with that 9% image. It doesn't. The 10 year study that I believe this article is talking about can be found here: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015034.pdf.

    If you scroll down to page 24, it will say |10| Figures and Tables at the top, you'd see that the Lowest Quartile actually has a little over 20% achieving bachelor's degrees. Compared to the other quartiles (35% in middle quartiles and 63% in top quartile), there's obviously a scaling gap but not as large. While that sounds hopeful, do note that this study has a sample size of about 17000 students.

    The infographic, however, comes from a tweet that the Board of Ed made themselves last year. It should be legitimate with a source like that but the numbers are wildly different from that study so it had to be from something else. The closest thing that came to being related was this: http://www.pellinstitute.org/downloads/publications-Indicators_of_Higher_Education_Equity_in_the_US_45_Year_Trend_Report.pdf.

    While the article rationalizes some of the reasons behind it, but the report shows the actual effects over the course of 40 years. On page 31, Equity Indicator 5a shows the relationship gap between Family Income and Bachelor's Degree attainment by age 24. The Top Quartile is shown as 77% instead of 54% but there's a warning about the census data that was used having a good chance to overestimate of the top quartile's degree attainment. I recommend going through the whole thing though. When you get to the essays close to the bottom, three very important bullets show up.

    • The average net price of attendance at the institutions attended by students from the highest.
    income quartile is growing at a faster rate than at institutions attended by students in the lowest.
    income quartile. This suggests increasing stratification across groups in the types of postsecondary education options that students from different groups can access (Equity Indicator 3b). In normal terms, that means that the schools that are financially out of reach for some are getting further out of reach.
    • Even when only those who enter college are considered, bachelor’s degree attainment rates in 2013 were an astonishing 78 percentage points lower for students from lower income families than for students from higher income families.
    • Although gaps in college participation have declined somewhat over time (Equity Indicator 1), gaps in bachelor’s degree attainment (Equity Indicator 5) have grown.

  46. Sue Reinhold says:

    Cathy Kroohs yes it is not like that is the solution. it impacts only a few. it was discussed in the article that harvard doesn't do this, so I was pointing out this practice at stanford. I agree with you it's practically criminal what we do to poor students and debt peonage is real and keeps our society down as well as these bright kids.

  47. I think the point was that, unlike public colleges, the elite colleges have billions of dollars they could use to subsidize poor students. And they don't. They seem to prefer to keep accepting legacy students, raking more donations, and keeping the endowment as high as possible. By the rich, for the rich, instead of for the smartest, regardless of ability to pay. It's a rigged system. As I tell my kids, if they want to live good, ordinary, financially secure lives, then it doesn't matter where they go to college. If they want to rule the world (or a significant company), then they should look to one of the elite schools, where they'll meet the children of those who do. Connections matter.

    I agree that the many public colleges are just as good/better at preparing us for work as Ivy League schools. And congratulations for persevering to get your degree!

  48. Jennifer Lautz Just remember what inbreeding does, intellectually as well as physically.

  49. One of the things school administrators (starting at the federal and state levels) don't seem to understand is that college isn't something you will forever miss out on if you don't do it between 18-22. I agree with you that we should offer all children the opportunity to train to make a living wage soon after high school, either for the needs of their lives (having to support their family of origin, for example), or to allow time to discover a true academic goal of their own by working and living before they go to a four-year school. College will still be there when they're ready.

  50. The article highlights some truths about American society : economic equality is not embraced by the elite. The wealthy institutions will not reach into the poor neighborhoods and invite young people to apply. The student body of prestigious universities are predominantly two groups, and I doubt it will ever change. I was an anomaly both in an exclusive college and graduate school, and time and again, I was met with the question: how did YOU get in here? I was a 4.0 student, with the highest SAT score in my school, but students from the dominant ethnic groups assumed that there was affirmative action afoot, because obviously I didn't earn my way.

  51. Jennifer Lautz Excellent point Jennifer Lautz! I agree.

  52. Amy Fan says:

    Cathy has a point, the international playing field has changed. My father received a full ride to university for grad school and he was also poor. But today, we look towards the international students to help pay for the other lower-income instate students because they pay full tuition. Had my father tried today, it's possible he wouldn't have been as lucky. Also, despite his higher education, I still ended up being raised in low-income so maybe that's saying something in relation to this article? Haha.

  53. Amy Fan says:

    Agree with both Jennifer and Dennis. Ivy Leagues aren't exactly catered to the "normal people," even the ones that do have the top grades. But the rich continues to aid the rich.

  54. it's not rocket science that if you start lower on the ladder you will have more rungs to climb. it is possible for low income students to attain a degree. does it take dedication? yes. does it require more work than those who have their parents paying for them? yes.
    College is more expensive than ever due to government intervention but there are ways to reduce these costs state schools as expensive as they can be are still often cheaper than private schools. community colleges can be a great choice so long as you do your research and find a good one where you can earn a transfer degree to a 4 year school.
    the real issue here is that students are not making financially savvy decisions or realizing ahead of time the commitment college requires. in the age of the internet it's much easier to find this information than ever before but ironically at the same time less people are doing the research.

  55. Amy Fan I can't say that this is 100% true. I was on a scholarship committee at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and we had one black student who got a full ride at Harvard while I was there, and it was paid for by Harvard.

    I knew the student and he told me about the psychology involved. He said that the first time he was there for the interview that he was probably told a hundred times about how many generations of family went there and how old an institution it was and how it was family….

    Now for him, he took it well as they made it clear that they were welcoming him into the family. As far as I know he went there, graduated, and has done well. However, for some students, especially from very poor families without an academic record or from a minority, you would read all that in a very different way.

    If you want to read about how someone can take this wrong, read Michelle Obama's master's thesis and her time in the ivy league. There is this pressure involved and I can see that. I am the first in my family to complete a degree in over 100 years in my family, but my family has been in the USA for almost 400 years so none of their talk fazes me. I spent time at Princeton as a guest and after graduation turned down a job at Stanford.

    To me it was never about the whole prestige of the thing, which is where many people get bogged down, it was simply about learning, doing, and then going on with my life. I was lucky to have a resume before I went to school (I was 28 when I went full time) and my already acquired skills opened doors. I also was very motivated and at a university with a strong research institute and I ended up with my own team and projects there. Many of the people I met and things I did are still with me and I still benefit from the relationships developed. People say that this is why you go to an Ivy League school, but I found that my state school (University of Alabama in Huntsville) was just fine for what I wanted to do.

    I also work with folks at Alabama A&M university, a historically black school that also has prestige.

    Bottom line is that no matter where you go, a university is what you make of it and opportunities abound.

  56. There are no privileges at test time. You work hard, study hard, and do good, and things will be well with you. Not believing this is possibly the worst thing that you can do for yourself or others.

  57. Jennifer Lautz I respectfully disagree. The elite schools—especially top 25 schools such as Harvard, Stanford, & down to USC—provide significant subsidization for students from poor backgrounds to have a chance to financially attend their school once admitted

    The problem often is tied to quality high school education & smart kids from poor background being mistakenly seen as delinquents or deviants without more sophisticated school programs (such as Gifted & Talented Programs) to aid them that are often exclusive to private schools.

  58. Sue Reinhold Not if your degree is in engineering or the sciences.

  59. I am from Alabama and when I first entered the tech field I had my strong country accent. I got the same kind of response. Further eyebrows were raised when myself and the top black student in our company school smoked everyone else in learning the systems that our company built. They could not figure out why a redneck and a black person would get along or be better than they were.

    Everyone makes judgements and everyone has perceptions. It is part of life, adapt and overcome as we like to say.

  60. Cathy Kroohs says:

    Dennis Ray Wingo, do you actually believe that it makes no difference whether the student is living in a stable home, has a computer he can use, gets enough food (and not junk food), and enough rest? That would be odd, because it's against all the science. Possibly this is how the middle class makes itself feel better by mouthing these kinds of mottos, because we know we are shorting these kids. Christy

  61. Cathy Kroohs says:

    Dennis Ray Wingo, it's harder to "adapt" a black skin than an accent. Christy

  62. Cathy Kroohs says:

    Dan Whitaker, if the kid from Taiwan was able to find mentors and backers, then he would make his way. And if a kid from the ghetto can find mentors and backers, he can, too. But that means only the kids perceived as special will get forward. That leaves a lot of "ordinary" kids behind where they won't be able to even touch the lowest rung of the ladder. Christy

  63. Cathy Kroohs It may be against science, but it is not against experience. Look at the Vietnamese, look at the minorities from around the world that come here and excel. Yes, what you are describing are obstacles and I know from first hand experience what debilitation a bad home experience can bring. I would agree that we need to help fix the culture, and one horrifying statistic is that 71% of black children are raised in single parent homes. This is a modern phenomenon that points to cultural disintegration in the black community. It did not used to be this way. Even in, and maybe because of segregation and institutional prejudice black families were strong. I am from a coal mining family and in the mines there was no color, only your stature as a good worker.

    I spent time with some of the black families of the miners that my step father worked with and they were wonderful people. The one that we were closest to sent five children to college on a miners salary, because the father and mother worked, and saved, and scrimped to provide their children with education and a pathway to a better life. I know of many such stories, but there are fewer of those today. I don't know what the problem is today, but it is a terrible thing.

  64. Cathy Kroohs says:

    Dennis Ray Wingo, to me you are focusing on the successful few without looking at the extremes they had to go to in order to succeed. I am looking at the 80 – 90% who will not succeed because their parents could/would not go those extremes, because they could not find teachers or mentors to push them and show them the possibilities, because there simply was no money and family need took precedence. There are always going to be exceptional people who will overcome incredible odds. But how many people can be exceptional? Oh, and the Vietnamese you cite? The first flood of Vietnamese were the officers who worked with Americans and were allowed to immigrate advantageously. They had connections here and they were educated people and had stable families. The boat people who came later under far worse circumstances did not do nearly so well. Christy

  65. Dr-Edd Perez says:

    This is a classic example of cultural wealth that students from affluent families have over low income families. Working harder is not the solution. I don't care how hard you work, if you don't have the right tools to complete the task then you'll be set up for failure. I just read an article today about soft skills being key for academic success in k-12, but if we're not taught how to develop such skills then this greatly inhibits our ability to succeed.

    When our students are first generation and lack the college knowledge that really is needed: study skills, navigating the institution, organizational and time management, this is when programs like Puente and other mentoring and academic coaching programs need to be funded, developed, and instituted. Puente is a great program but only covers cohorts of 30 something students; way more is needed.

    The way the system is set up has students struggling through college, in debt, and when our kids do graduate they are missing key concepts that are not taught in any classroom. The skills that develop self-efficacy are missing. Our students (in community college) often don't feel connected to the institution, don't understand and are missing representation on campus. The majority of instruction come from over-worked part-time faculty that need to be on the freeway headed to the next class in a different county, instead of connecting with students in a meaningful way.

    Dr-Edd Perez

  66. Mentors are needed to guide and encourage these students.

  67. What a terrIble idea to teach our children.

  68. Dennis Ray Wingo I have two degrees and a multitude of skills if you are not given the opportunity because of who you are where you come from and your ethnic group, it is not about tests, it is about what happens after education. I know the feeling.

  69. Ryan Healey says:

    Jonathan, this message isn't directed at children. I agree, students need all the hope and motivation we can get. This message is directed at voters and lobbyists so we can fix the system and give less wealthy students the same opportunities.

  70. Ryan Healey says:

    Unfortunately, appreciation, value and respect for education is not all our takes to be successful in school, especially when you have to spend your study time working, go hungry for meals you can't afford, and possibly have to endure physical and mental pain because you can't afford proper treatment. Financial aid rarely if ever covers the cost of school, let alone costs of living, no matter how much time you spend navigating today's FA bureaucracy instead of studying. I'm glad you had the opportunities to take advantage of, but not everyone does or can.

  71. Roya Bashier says:

    I'm sure they are somewhere, but I'm a First Gen student at Stanford, and I never heard of special mentoring or support directly targeted towards us. It could be that it's just not advertised very well. But the Questbridge program is fantastic, if students are Quest scholars at these top schools.

  72. That's a switch! Will be interesting.

  73. What r u going to do besides collect degrees? The article also mentions help to go on from universities.

  74. Charles Carlies Well, she never specified what type of degrees they were.

  75. That takes some creative inference to get that the article is talking down to smart poor kids… it seems to be doing just the opposite… grounding judgements and discussions about their success and how to succeed in functional realities faced by those in these situations… meaning; it is generally harder for poor kids to get through school. No amount of positive thinking can change this, and it isn't really positive towards those that are disadvantaged to ignore the struggles they face.

  76. "I was very poor growing up. I work hard and I am now upper middle-class." I'm concerned you recieved an education without learning anecdotal evidence carries little value.

  77. The same as it always has been… if you are poor, you have to work harder than if you start out with economic advantages…. and if you are a person of color, especially black, you have to work even harder than your white counterparts. So imagine how hard you have to work if you are poor, and black, However, that is still NO EXCUSE not to do the best you can to get where you want to be.

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