First-generation, low-income college students who attend well-resourced institutions may be embarking on a path of upward mobility, but that path is fraught by social and cultural barriers, often reinforced by the schools themselves. Anthony Abraham Jack studies and researches this phenomenon in his book, “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students,” published last week by Harvard University Press.
“Admissions letters and financial aid do not a diverse college make. Access and inclusion do,” said Jack at the launch of his book at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences last Wednesday.
In other words, placing students from disadvantaged backgrounds into elite schools does not automatically put them on the same playing field as their privileged peers.
Jack, who is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an assistant professor at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, hails from Miami and attended Amherst College in 2003. His own experience as a black first-generation college student from a low-income background inspired him to pursue this project.
“I wanted to focus on how structural inequalities like segregation, job placement, poverty, disinvestment in public K–12… manifest themselves on campus,” he said at the book launch last week. “We must understand what students have been through, and what they have done to get to school, to understand why they chart the paths they do once they get there.