Leave No Upper Middle Class Child Behind

The NY Times is currently running a series entitled, "Class Matters" that is a must read for anyone concerned about the state of our society. A very simple and minimally intrusive registration is required to access the NY Times online and, for this series alone, is well worth it.

The series takes a look at class and its relationship to Health, Marriage, Religion, and Education. It is a refreshing, albeit critical, look at the role that money and status plays in the things that matter most to individuals. It challenges the arguments postulated by certain elements of our society who repeat the fairy tale that if one tries hard enough, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

Sadly, it also sheds a light on the large part of our society (increasingly resembling ourselves, our families, and our neighbors) who are fighting a losing fight and are cast aside as statistics on a page.

The reader is offered charts (sourced), studies, and personal stories that must be looked at if we are to set this ship of state on its proper course again.

The following are excerpts from stories in the Education section of the series:

The College Dropout Boom
by: David Leonhardt

"He became a college dropout, though nongraduate may be the more precise term. Many people like him plan to return to get their degrees, even if few actually do. Almost one in three Americans in their mid-20's now fall into this group, up from one in five in the late 1960's, when the Census Bureau began keeping such data. Most come from poor and working-class families...

And at institutions where nearly everyone graduates - small colleges like Colgate, major state institutions like the University of Colorado and elite private universities like Stanford - more students today come from the top of the nation's income ladder than they did two decades ago...

Only 41 percent of low-income students entering a four-year college managed to graduate within five years, the Department of Education found in a study last year, but 66 percent of high-income students did. That gap had grown over recent years. That loss of ground is all the more significant because a college education matters much more now than it once did. A bachelor's degree, not a year or two of courses, tends to determine a person's place in today's globalized, computerized economy.

College graduates have received steady pay increases over the past two decades, while the pay of everyone else has risen little more than the rate of inflation. As a result, despite one of the great education explosions in modern history, economic mobility - moving from one income group to another over the course of a lifetime - has stopped rising, researchers say. Some recent studies suggest that it has declined over the last generation.

Across the country, the upper middle class so dominates elite universities that high-income students, on average, actually get slightly more financial aid from colleges than low-income students do. These elite colleges are so expensive that even many high-income students receive large grants. In the early 1990's, by contrast, poorer students got 50 percent more aid on average than the wealthier ones, according to the College Board, the organization that runs the SAT entrance exams."

No Degree, and No Way Back to the Middle

"Since high school, Caleb has had six jobs, none very promising. Now 28, he may never reach the middle class, he said. But for his father and others of a generation that could count on a comfortable life without a degree, the fall out of the middle class has come as a shock. They had been frozen in another age, a time when Kaiser factory workers could buy new cars, take decent vacations and enjoy full health care benefits.

They have seen factory gates close and not reopen. They have taken retraining classes for jobs that pay half their old wages. And as they hustle around for work, they have been constantly reminded of the one thing that stands out on their résumés: the education that ended with a high school diploma.

It is not just that the American economy has shed six million manufacturing jobs over the last three decades; it is that the market value of those put out of work, people like Jeff Martinelli, has declined considerably over their lifetimes, opening a gap that has left millions of blue-collar workers at the margins of the middle class."



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