Increasing viewpoint diversity in the academy offers many benefits. While Heterodox Academy is primarily focused on increasing political diversity to prevent the formation of political orthodoxy, there are many other kinds of diversity that would improve the quality of discourse on campus. One that is sorely lacking, and getting more attention in the last year or two,  is economic diversity.

A recent piece by HxA member Jonathan Zimmerman of the University of Pennsylvania, published on Philly.com, offers this stunning statistic about his own school, The University of Pennsylvania:

At my…institution, a recent report showed that there were no undergraduate students – that’s right, zero – from the lowest quintile of American earners. And over 70 percent of our undergraduates come from the top two quintiles.

Focusing on the student body at top schools is important because most highly qualified low-income students don’t attend one of the country’s roughly 250 top colleges. According to a recent column by David Leonhardt in The New York Times, many highly qualified low-income students instead enroll in local colleges with relatively few resources and high dropout rates. The imbalance at elite colleges is profound: A Brookings Institute study shows “for every high-achieving, low-income student who applies, there are 15 high-achieving, high-income students applying to selective colleges.” The Brookings study also reinforced that when poor students do make it to elite colleges, they tend to thrive both academically and professionally.

Zimmerman suggests that boosting enrollment of students from disadvantaged backgrounds (along with financial aid for them) should be a shared mission for students from all elite colleges. I agree, and believe that this can be a galvanizing area where students, academics and administrators can work together to support a change that is widely thought to be fair and that would increase viewpoint diversity in the process.

Please do read Zimmerman’s essay.


Are there additional examples or programs at your school? Let us know in the comments what you think colleges and universities can do to help increase economic diversity on campus.

Opinions expressed are those of the author(s). Publication does not imply endorsement by Heterodox Academy or any of its members. We welcome your comments below. Feel free to challenge and disagree, but please try to model the sort of respectful and constructive criticism that makes viewpoint diversity most valuable. Comments that include obscenity or aggression are likely to be deleted.