For Richer, For Poorer

Do you want to get an idea of who’s studying at your college or alma mater, at least based on income? Well, the New York Times has put together a chart showing the results of a recent study comparing colleges in terms of percentage of students in the top 1% vs. the bottom 60% of family income. It might surprise you to find out that none of the top 10 schools are members of the Ivy League, but it probably won’t surprise you to find out that five Ivy League schools – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – do fall within the 38 colleges in which more students come from the top 1% than from the bottom 60% – despite the continuing emphasis on attracting lower income students.

So the number one school in this list is Washington University in St. Louis with 21.7% of students in the top 1% and 6.1% in the bottom 60%. Wash U is followed by Colorado College, Washington and Lee University, Colby College, Trinity College in Connecticut, Bucknell University, Colgate University, Kenyon College, Middlebury College and Tufts University.

What’s fun about the article online is the ability to check numbers for individual colleges. So I added my alma mater, NYU, and it turns out that it sits at number 101 on the list, with 11.4% of students in the top 1% and 24.8% in the lower 60%. Hmm, what other school should I check? Columbia College, Chicago: 3.1% in the top, 38.3% in the bottom, resulting in the one time that a college likes to see that it has a low ranking: #362. Compare that with another Columbia namesake, Columbia University in New York City, which comes in at number 72 (13.4% to 21.1%).

Surprisingly, according to the article, the share of students at elite colleges from the bottom 40% has remained mostly flat for a decade. Keep in mind, though, that the data does not reflect numbers as of today, and colleges have been vigorously trying to find and enroll those students recently. So perhaps when the authors review the data again in a few years, the numbers will have changed.

In the meantime, NYU ranks fourth in the list of elite colleges that enroll the highest percentage of low and middle income students. Who heads the list? Columbia College, Chicago, while Columbia University comes in at number 18.

For more interesting insight from this remarkable study, go to