New research concludes that access to top universities in the United States, England, and Australia has a lot to do with family background and money—not just the academic ability of applicants.
In the United States, children from professional families are more than three times more likely to go to leading public universities than those from working-class homes—and 40 percent of the gap cannot be explained by achievement differences, says a report by the Sutton Trust, a British think tank. At elite, private universities in America, where students from professional families are 6.4 times more likely to enroll than their working-class peers, 52 percent of the difference is not explained by academic achievement.
The findings were similar for children in England and Australia, although the gaps were slightly larger in the United States. The research was presented at a London summit last month on improving access low- and middle-income students’s access to elite universities.
A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as College Access