Why isn’t higher education meritocratic?

After doing the readings, I would say education isn’t meritocratic mainly because of money and lack thereof. Metler makes the important point that “college degrees are more linked than ever to opportunities” yet these opportunities are being given almost exclusively to those who can afford them (48). Higher education is increasingly being seen as a necessity as opposed to an option and that goes hand in hand with the depleted idea of the American dream that eventually one will advance if they work hard enough. As tuition continues to increase steadily, the opportunity for low-income students to attend institutes of higher education decreases, even though they are just as qualified. Gone are the days where one can apply to college with a GPA that is considered good and get in. To get into college, one’s GPA has to be stellar, then they have to have extra-curriculars both athletic and academic, then letters of recommendations, AP scores and essays and multiple sets of SAT scores and that’s not even taking into consideration financial need. Being a ‘good’ student is no longer your ticket to higher education or merit only gets you so far. In Armstrong’s article, she argues “college experience is shaped by the fit between individual characteristics (resources associated with class background..)” (8). What stood out to me there is the link between class background and one’s college experience. What she continues to explore is the idea that those who come from higher class backgrounds and have more money are more able to focus on their studies as opposed to those from low-income backgrounds who often need to work extra jobs or supplement their studies with work in order to afford their education. In other words, it’s nearly impossible for colleges to measure people based off of merit, though they try, because of the outside situations people are in that affect their college experience. Higher education can’t be based on meritocracy until everyone has an equal opportunity to attend college and until then, people should be aware of their privilege and the inequality around them.


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