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Elite Universities Look to Boost Economic Diversity

Top Universities Boost Aid to Low-Income Students

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The rotunda at the University of Virginia.

The rotunda at the University of Virginia. UVA is one of several elite schools boosting grant aid in an effort to attract more low-income students and increase economic diversity on campus. Corbis hide caption

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Research suggests less than 5 percent of students at America's top colleges and universities come from low-income families. Many of these elite institutions recognize the problem and are taking steps to boost economic diversity on campus — such as offering full scholarships for underprivileged students.

Some education experts applaud the move, but say that to make a real difference, top schools should go further and embrace policies of economic affirmative action.

But some education researchers suggest there aren't enough college-ready low-income students graduating from public schools to raise these numbers appreciably. NPR's Anthony Brooks reports.

At a Glance:

* Nearly three quarters of students at the nation's top 140 schools come from the wealthiest families; 3 percent come from the bottom economic quartile. (Source: Richard Kahlenberg, Century Foundation)

* A study of 19 selective universities found privileged students are six times more likely to end up in the pool of applicants than underprivileged students. (Source: William Bowen, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation)

* Research suggests that if admissions departments gave low-income applicants the same credit based on their economic status as they do to the children of alumni, the percentage of disadvantaged students at elite schools would rise from 11 percent to 17 percent. (Source: William Bowen, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation)

*According to the Manhattan Institute, only 51 percent of all black students and 5 percent of all Hispanic students graduate, and only 20 percent of all black students and 16 percent of all Hispanic students are ready for college when they leave high school. (Source: Greg Foster, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research)

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