Higher education is an important and vibrant arena in which to impact change. As many colleges and universities strive to diversify their communities, the emergence of issues of class, as well as the intersections of race and class, is sparking dialogue and reflection. Elite colleges especially are trying to enroll higher percentages of low-income and first-generation students. Once these students are inside the front gates, how do they fare? There is a higher education class culture and it’s rarely working class. Some students have a steeper hill to climb and will need more assistance to assimilate into an otherwise middle- to upper-class culture and may experience internalized conflict when moving between classes.
Some of the classist policies that could prevent low-income students from applying to an institution include:
- No fee waivers
- Sticker shock
- No need-blind admission
- No institutional support
- Heavily weighted admission essays
- Counting work experiences
- Name brand association
- No transparency in admission policies
- No active outreach
- No diversity
- Not making it a family affair
Class Action works with independent schools, colleges, and universities to help them identify and dismantle class biases and barriers. Through trainings, workshops, consultations, and organizational development, schools learn how to ensure the academic and social success of these students. They identify ways in which the college community can benefit from the life experiences, enthusiasm, and practical skills brought by low-income students, and recognize the ways in which this class diversity better prepares future leaders for a global community and economy.
Class Action has extensive experience addressing class through a wide range of schools. We were partners with Class Divide, a three-year campus-wide initiative on class issues at Dartmouth College. Inspired by this work, Class Action designed and launched comprehensive, multi-year initiatives with the goal of creating a national model for inclusive and responsive higher education. We are also in preliminary discussions to develop a regional initiative with both elite colleges and community colleges. By making change at the institutional level, this work will have systemic and sustained impact for years to come on thousands of students, and the faculty, staff, and trustees who are entrusted with educating them.
Class Action also creates and distributes educational resources to assist educators in broaching the subject of class.
First Generation College Students
Class Action has first-person stories of college students who are the first in their families to go to college and resources for improving the experience of such first-generation and other lower-income students on our First Generation College Students web page.
Class Action Resources
Enough: A Kid’s Perspective
The award-winning short film Enough is available on DVD from Class Action for $15. The Enough curriculum contains information and activities to further explore the issues of class, race and inequality for middle school and high school students. Available from the Class Action Store.
Class in Education
Felice Yeskel, Ed.D. guest edited the February 2008 issue “Class in Education” of the scholarly journal Equity & Excellence in Education. This edition includes her insightful introduction “Coming to Class: Looking at Education through the Lens of Class.
Links to other reading suggestions may be found on our Class and Education resources page.