Who Benefits Most from College?

I came across a great study about who benefits most from college. The underlying premise of the study examines how the economic return to a college education varies across members of the U.S. population (there’s a lot of theoretical content as well if you’re interested!). A fascinating result of the study indicates that people most likely to benefit from a college education are the least likely to obtain one. Furthermore, the study states that people from disadvantaged social backgrounds who attend college might use education as a means for economic mobility, while those who have an advantaged social background are not driven by the same rationale.

I’m sure many would find this an obvious conclusion – of course someone from a disadvantaged background will gain more from a college education. Indeed, makes sense to me as well. However, the results should also provide some food for thought. The assumption here is that disadvantaged groups such as Hispanics, African Americans, women and other minorities are afforded the same opportunity as advantaged people to attend college. We know this is not the case. Another assumption is that people from disadvantaged backgrounds have the same career support structures and networks that advantaged people do. We know that minorities historically have had to overcome barriers such as the lack of mentors, leader representation, and discrimination to succeed in the workplace.

As someone that came from a disadvantaged background via immigrants from Mexico, I can appreciate the results of the study. Much of my motivation and determination to obtain a college degree was economically driven. I wanted to also fulfill the dreams my parents had for me.  However, my later educational pursuits, especially my masters and doctorate degrees, were driven by most parents’ desire to provide better opportunities for their children.