Magazine article Academe

Access to Higher Education

Magazine article Academe

Access to Higher Education

Article excerpt

COLLEGE PROFESSORS ARE NOW THE GUARDIANS OF THE AMERIcan dream. In the good old days, it was assumed that all an ambitious young man from the lower classes had to do to get ahead was work hard, practice thrift, and go to church on Sunday. Now, however, that dream requires a B.A., and those who seek it are a far more diverse group than the young white males from farms and small towns who populated Horatio Alger's America a hundred years ago.

But it has not been easy for students from racial minorities or working-class backgrounds to gain that coveted degree. And as many politicians and other champions of privatization turn against public higher education, these students may well lose their hard-won access to social mobility, while the institutions they can no longer attend will become more homogeneous and less representative of the increasingly multiethnic, multicultural world of the twenty-first century.

Because the factors that limit access to higher education and reduce diversity affect professors as well as students, Academe decided to look at the economic, racial, and cultural barriers that make it so hard for America's colleges and universities to deliver on the American dream or, as Mary Burgan notes, to "do the right thing by those who have been denied access." None of our authors offer panaceas. They seek to alert us to the issues and suggest some tentative solutions.

They do not, however, speak with dispassion. Some of these people have been on the front lines of the bruising educational struggles in California and New York City. They are too embattled to be cool. …

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