Why isn’t higher education meritocratic?

Education is not meritocratic and it doesn’t look as though this will change any time soon. The rising costs of education alone as well as the resources available to different students only reinforce income inequality and devalue the educational system that is meant to be an equalizer. Many people attend college because they believe that it will get them job that has a higher salary and is more satisfying than if they hadn’t gone to college. This is the case for some, however, the fact that education is not meritocratic means that the people that reap the most benefits from their college education are not just those that worked the hardest but those that had the most resources available to them. A study in Creating Degrees of Inequality was tested to see the disparities between low and high-income households. Mettler explains. “If we look more closely to see who completes college today, we find that the ranks of college graduates reinforce income inequality.” (23) In fact this study found that 71& who grew up in high-income families complete their bachelor’s degree in early adulthood while only 10% who grow up in low-income families do. In fact that disparity is so large that “the percentage who obtain diplomas among the top income quartile is greater than that of the other three quartiles combined” (24). These sorts of facts prove that the higher education system does not actually equalize it’s students but creates an almost larger gap between high and low income families. The reading by Armstrong explained how the income of a family was not the only factor but also the resources available to you due to that income. The example of Taylor and Emma who entered the college at about the same place but left with two completely different life paths shows how much of your success relies on more than a college education. In one example Armstrong states, “without highly educated and well-informed parents like Taylor’s, it was hard for Emma to entirely avoid the lure of the robust party pathway at MU” (13). Therefore, a lot of the success of the students also comes from the success of their parents, which once again, reinforces the income inequality already highly present in our society. How can someone that comes from a low-income family with parents that did not attend to college go to college and then gain a better job if higher education is not meritocratic? While many people do believe that higher education is a “great equalizer” these reading show that this is just not the case.


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