End the duopoly

American Universities Must Choose: Do they Want to be Equal or Elite?

Markovits is Guido Calabresi professor of law at Yale Law School and the author of The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, published by Penguin Press

In recent years, the “Ivy Plus” colleges have enrolled more students from households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution than from the entire bottom half. ($65,000 lies above the median household income.) They devote vast resources to educating these already privileged students. The most selective schools spend almost eight times as much per student as the least selective ones.

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When they finish school, elite graduates dominate the highest-paying jobs. Top bankers, a recent ethnography of Wall Street observes, are recruited “only from the Ivy League and a few comparable schools like MIT and Stanford;” and four fifths of the partners at the most profitable law firm in America graduated from a law school ranked in the “top five.” More broadly, just 1 in 75 high school dropouts and just 1 in 40 workers with a high school education only will enjoy lifetime earnings equal to the median professional school graduate. This cycle of elite educations and high-paying jobs allows rich families to pass privilege down through their generations. Elite schooling has become the dynastic technology of choice for the one percent.


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