• UT should focus more on student body's economic diversity

    Vassar College was named the most economically diverse top university by the New York Times. Recently, about 23 percent of Vassar's freshmen have received Pell grants, which the federal government gives to students within the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution.
    Vassar College was named the most economically diverse top university by the New York Times. Recently, about 23 percent of Vassar's freshmen have received Pell grants, which the federal government gives to students within the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution.

    An analysis by the New York Times on Tuesday discussed the economic backgrounds of students at colleges in the U.S. that graduate 75 percent of their students in four years. The main takeaway of the study was that "otherwise similar colleges often have very different levels of commitment to economic diversity." Although the study doesn't mention UT, the University could stand to increase its diversity by looking to some of the universities topping the list, such as Vassar College and Grinnell College, and implementing some of their methods. I realize UT can't precisely model itself after these schools because much of the list is comprised of private universities with more money than UT has, but it's definitely worth considering.

    UT, like most universities, claims to strive for all kinds of diversity within its student body. But, as a Daily Texan columnist pointed out, 49 percent of students come from families with household incomes of $100,000 or more. In Texas, about 25 percent of families are within that income bracket. Of course, this can be partially explained by the fact that students who come from high-income families often perform better in school, but this can't be the only factor leading to these percentages, and we can't just accept these numbers without trying to change them.

    Upon graduating, students will have to interact with all types of people, and learning to work well with people with different backgrounds is tremendously beneficial in all aspects of life, especially in workplaces and other situations in which cooperation is essential. College seems like the perfect community to be immersed into diversity, but the preconceived notion of the diverse college campus only concerns race and ethnicity.  This mindset needs to change, though, because having friends in different economic situations is just as important as having friends with different majors or of different cultures.

    A satisfactory solution to our lack of economic diversity would require work at every level of the educational system, and politicians have been presenting possible solutions for years. I'm in no position to reasonably suggest how Texas can better fund low-performing primary and secondary schools, or how the state can recruit teachers and administrators who would ensure that students whose parents aren't adequately involved in their education will still succeed. But I think UT has a responsibility to do what it can to recruit students from lower-income areas and help them do well once they get here, and although the University will definitely run into obstacles and limitations, attempting to bring students from all over the economic scale together is important to students' educational experiences.