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ERIC Number: ED559226
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov
Pages: 19
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Family Background and Access to "High Status" Universities
Jerrim, John
Sutton Trust
Economic inequality is high and rising in a number of developed countries, including in the United Kingdom and the United States. There are growing concerns that this may have negative implications for equality of opportunity, and the extent to which social disadvantage is transmitted across generations. It is widely believed that providing greater educational opportunities to disadvantaged children may help limit the impact of this. Yet young people from disadvantaged backgrounds remain significantly underrepresented in the undergraduate population, particularly within high-status institutions. Improving access to prestigious colleges is vital to increasing social fluidity and ensuring disadvantaged children have equal opportunity to succeed. This research briefing considers a number of factors related to the socioeconomic gap in access to "high status" institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both countries are placed in a broad cross-national context in terms of social mobility, socio-economic disparities in educational attainment, the link between family background and access to higher education, university dropout rates, and the financial rewards of completing a tertiary qualification. Key findings in this report include: (1) Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are much less likely to develop the advanced cognitive skills required to enter a high status university. Less than three percent of children from disadvantaged backgrounds in England and the US reached a "high" standard (Level 5) on the PISA 2009 reading assessment. This compares to 15 percent of children from the most advantaged backgrounds; (2) The United States has a particularly pronounced problem with young people dropping out of higher education. Almost half of those who enter university do not complete their degree. This compares to a non-completion rate of around 20 percent in the UK; (3) Children with professional parents are approximately three times more likely to enter a high status university (rather than a non-high status university) than those with working class parents. This holds true for Australia, England, and public sector elite colleges in the United States; (4) Although academic achievement up to age 18 can explain a great deal of the socio-economic gap in elite university access, it does not completely remove it. At least a quarter of the difference in England, the US, and Australia is not explained by academic ability. This suggests that (cost-effective) interventions between the ages of 14 and 18 may play an important role in reducing socio-economic inequalities in elite university access in the future; (5) The "sticker price" of elite private US colleges (e.g. Harvard) is high compared to their counterparts in the UK (e.g. Oxford). However, the generous aid packages available mean that the actual price young people from low income backgrounds pay to attend elite private colleges in the United States is significantly lower; and (6) The UK's system of income contingent loans makes it harder to compare the "actual" price of attending an elite university across the two countries.
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Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Sutton Trust (England)
Identifiers - Location: Australia; Netherlands; United Kingdom; United States
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Program for International Student Assessment