I know a Latin woman who works as a cleaning lady in a healthcare facility. She has two children and a working husband. Her goal is to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), and she is a student at a private college. When she told me she was in her final year of study and that she had a debt of several thousand dollars, I asked why she hadn’t enrolled in a local community college where the fee would have been lower. Her shrug was unreadable. I didn’t know if she had an aversion to a public school, or if she didn’t realize a two-year college would have earned her the same license for less.
Sadly, the woman is an example of why the Great Gatsby Curve persists in our society. The curve occurs when too great a gap exists between rich and poor people in a culture, and an individual gets trapped in the class into which he or she is born, a condition becoming prevalent in the United States. (“the business of equality,” by Jenna Smialek, Bloomberg Businessweek, March 25, 2019, pg. 42.)
The poor find it harder to climb the economic ladder because many lack a support system They must make their way through the gates of higher education alone and may find it confusing. Like the Latin woman I mentioned, simply knowing a community college option existed for a LPN license might have saved her significant fees. Instead, she enrolled in a private college. No doubt, their aggressive advertising made enrollment seem easy. She paid for the convenience, however through higher tuition costs.
Another economic hurdle for the woman is her race. She is likely to face discrimination, which will make it harder to obtain a job with a good salary.
Surprisingly, economically disadvantaged students who have performed well in high school and achieved good scores on standardized tests, often don’t apply to selective colleges and universities. (Ibid pg. 43.) Application procedures may appear daunting to first generation achievers. Humbly, they step aside, while some wealthy parents resort to illegal measures to open doors for their underachieving children.
Can this country afford to allow gifted minorities to fall by the wayside? Sadly, some academic communities behave as if they think the country can.