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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The US News Rankings, Higher Education, and Trump

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the working-class resentment that fueled Trump:
College America was becoming a class apart. Its members had their own tastes, preferences, and neighborhoods. And its children were marrying one another. (For instance, the Clintons’ daughter wed a fellow Stanford graduate whose parents had both served in the House of Representatives.) College-educated parents passed along good genes, provided their children with cultural opportunities, paid for test-prep classes, and used their connections to open the doors for internships and jobs. Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, writes of friends who ask his help in getting internships for their children. “I understand what they’re doing; this is part of being a parent. Still, it’s a reminder that America’s current internship system, in which contacts and money matter more than talent, contributes to an economy in which access and opportunity go to the people who already have the most of both.”
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So to the extent that blue collar Americans thought that the system was rigged in favor of college America, they were not entirely wrong. They also had reason to think that college America looked down on them.
Benjamin Wermund writes at Politico:
America’s universities are getting two report cards this year. The first, from the Equality of Opportunity Project, brought the shocking revelation that many top universities, including Princeton and Yale, admit more students from the top 1 percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent combined. The second, from U.S. News and World Report, is due on Tuesday — with Princeton and Yale among the contenders for the top spot in the annual rankings.
The two are related: A POLITICO review shows that the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings — a measure so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans — create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants.Class-based anger was a driving factor in the 2016 presidential campaign, as white voters without college degrees vented their frustration by voting for Donald Trump in record numbers; it was the single best statistical predictor of a Trump voter. In the wake of Trump’s election, the majority of Republicans say colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, according to the latest polling by the Pew Research Center. Young people still see college as necessary to get a good job and move up in society. But the vast majority don’t believe the higher education system is helping them do that, according to a recent report by New America, a Washington-based think tank.
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“Elite colleges are part of the apparatus that produces Trumpism and produces working class, white resentment,” said Walter Benn Michaels, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“It fits perfectly into Trump’s narrative … Basically, if you’re a low-income or working-class white student who works hard and you find out that what matters in admissions is who your daddy is, or what your race is, you’re completely left out,” said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “When a politician like Donald Trump comes along and says the system is rigged, you’re very likely to believe that. In this case, it is rigged — against those students.”