At the New York Times, "Efforts to Recruit Poor Students Lag at Some Elite Colleges":
With affirmative action under attack and economic mobility feared to be stagnating, top colleges profess a growing commitment to recruiting poor students. But a comparison of low-income enrollment shows wide disparities among the most competitive private colleges. A student at Vassar, for example, is three times as likely to receive a need-based Pell Grant as one at Washington University in St. Louis.And maybe regressive leftists might work on enlarging the pool of highly qualified minority students. But really, I doubt they care about that, because, you know, some "victims of discrimination" might have to work a little bit harder in life.
“It’s a question of how serious you are about it,” said Catharine Bond Hill, the president of Vassar. She said of colleges with multibillion-dollar endowments and numerous tax exemptions that recruit few poor students, “Shame on you.”
At Vassar, Amherst College and Emory University, 22 percent of undergraduates in 2010-11 received federal Pell Grants, which go mostly to students whose families earn less than $30,000 a year. The same year, the most recent in the federal Department of Education database, only 7 percent of undergraduates at Washington University were Pell recipients, and 8 percent at Washington and Lee University were, according to research by The New York Times.
Researchers at Georgetown University have found that at the most competitive colleges, only 14 percent of students come from the lower 50 percent of families by income. That figure has not increased over more than two decades, an indication that a generation of pledges to diversify has not amounted to much. Top colleges differ markedly in how aggressively they hunt for qualified teenagers from poorer families, how they assess applicants who need aid, and how they distribute the available aid dollars.
Some institutions argue that they do not have the resources to be as generous as the top colleges, and for most colleges, with meager endowments, that is no doubt true. But among the elites, nearly all of them with large endowments, there is little correlation between a university’s wealth and the number of students who receive Pell Grants, which did not exceed $5,550 per student last year.
Washington University has an endowment similar in size, per student, to those of Emory and Vassar — between $300,000 and $400,000 as of mid-2012, wealthier than all but a few dozen colleges in the country, and Washington and Lee’s endowment is significantly larger, the Times research shows. At Harvard and Yale, with the largest endowments in the country, Pell enrollment was near the 15 percent average for the 50 most competitive colleges; at Princeton, with the largest per-capita endowment, it was lower, 12 percent, though its officials say the rate is higher for the freshman class starting this fall.
John Berg, the vice chancellor for admissions at Washington University, said one reason its numbers are so low is that the disadvantaged students it admits usually have offers from other top colleges with better name recognition.
Bob Strong, a professor of politics at Washington and Lee who oversaw admissions there for two years as interim provost, conceded that his institution historically did a poor job of recruiting low-income students, but said that it has improved and “we’re still working on it.”