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letters | making higher education affordable

Strong support for state universities is a key rung in social ladder

The article “Wealth gap limits equality of education” (Business, July 5) discusses a report that high-income families invest seven times more on their children’s education (presumably not counting private school tuition) than low-income families. The report comments that “there are initial signs that inequality is starting to bleed into social mobility. And social mobility is at the heart of the American experience.” It would be more accurate to say that social mobility is at the heart of what Americans like to think about their country, not its actual experience.

For some years, the United States has been in the middle among advanced nations on social mobility. One typical 2006 study has us behind Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and near or slightly behind Germany and the United Kingdom.

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The extreme overrepresentation of upper-income students and even more extreme underrepresentation of low-income students in private colleges have been intensifying for many years.

But getting a few more low-income students into selective colleges does not provide broad social mobility. That can come only from robust state support of a high-quality state university system such as Massachusetts had back in the 1970s and ’80s when I started teaching at UMass Boston.

Lawrence Blum


The writer is a professor of philosophy at University of Massachusetts Boston.

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