A recent study conducted by University Prof. Susan Dynarski, a public policy, education and economics professor, highlights a discrepancy in college graduation rates among students who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
According to Dynarski’s article discussing her research, which was featured the New York Times, the study found that across the country, 14 percent of the poorest students sampled in 2002 had gone to college and graduated, whereas 60 percent of the richest had gone to college and graduated.
Both students’ socioeconomic and educational backgrounds — for instance, if a student’s parents had gone to college — placed them in categories labeled as ‘advantaged’ and ‘disadvantaged.’ The study found that the graduation gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged is larger than the enrollment gap. The advantaged are more likely not only to go to college and but to graduate as well.
“Put bluntly, class trumps ability when it comes to college graduation,” Dynarski wrote.
She argued differences in test scores and academic abilities between socioeconomic classes do not explain everything about the difference in who graduates. Ability by itself is not the only factor that effects graduation rates — it plays a smaller role in the graduation rate difference between rich and poor, according to the article.
“Here’s another startling comparison: A poor teenager with top scores and a rich teenager with mediocre scores are equally likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. In both groups, 41 percent receive a degree by their late 20s,” she wrote.
Dynarski drew much evidence for her analysis from the Educational Longitude Study. Conducted in 2002, the study followed a sample of high school sophomores across the U.S. as they progressed through high school and college.
The national graduation average in 2012 was 59 percent, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. At the University, it was 90 percent in 2012.
According to the University’s admissions website, the University is a less expensive option for in-state students. For in-state students, the University meets 100 percent financial need, which is measured by subtracting a student’s expected family contribution from the University’s cost of attendance. It is cheaper to attend the University as an in-state student and receive substantial financial aid than to attend a college that does not meet 100 percent financial aid.
Students who benefit from financial aid, however, still have a lower graduation rate than students who do not receive any financial aid.
Sixteen percent of undergraduates received Pell Grants, the federal grant for mainly low-income students for the 2012-2013 school year according to the Fifth Edition of the Michigan Almanac. Similar to other selective academic institutions, the financial makeup of undergraduates is comprised of a majority of students from higher-income backgrounds.
According to Deborah Greene from the Office of Public Affairs, the University does not have socioeconomic data for all University students on graduation rates. In an e-mail to the Daily, she said the Office of Budget and Planning’s information on Pell Grant recipients is the best estimate of graduation rate data based on Socioeconomic status.
Students receiving Pell Grants, who are an economic minority on campus and are more likely to be lower-income students, graduate at lower rates than the University’s average.
In 2008, 85% of students receiving Pell grants graduated from the University compare to the 90% class average. Though this is the highest the University has seen in recent years, graduation rates are still low compared to class averages.