More students at Kenyon come from the top one percent of the income scale than from the bottom 60 percent, according to a new study on economic diversity in higher education.
Kenyon ranks eighth on the New York Times’ list of 38 colleges in the United States that fit this classification: 19.8 percent of students come from families in the top one percent, and 12.2 percent of students come from families in the bottom 60 percent. The ranking is based on research by The Equality of Opportunity Project, which used millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.
The median family income of a Kenyon student as $213,500, according to the Times, and 75 percent of students come from the top 20 percent. Less than one percent of Kenyon students who came from poor families became rich adults, and the median student income at age 34 was $48,000.
The Times compiled its ranking using the cohort of college students born in 1991, meaning those in the class of 2013. Families in the top one percent are classified as earning $630,000 or more per year, while families in the bottom 60 percent make less than $65,000 per year.
In an email to the Collegian, Dean of Admissions and Vice President of Enrollment Management Diane Anci said the College plans to comment on the Times report in the coming days.
Matt Mandel ’19 was unsurprised by the study’s findings and felt they spoke to a culture of economic privilege at Kenyon.
“While Kenyon is not only made up of students from wealthy backgrounds, this article shows a clear issue in Kenyon’s culture and lack of economic diversity, which could be based on its need-based support of not only low-income students but also those from middle-class backgrounds,” Mandel said. “Some colleges try too hard to put their financial aid nearly exclusively toward students from low-income backgrounds, while it seems to me that Kenyon puts its financial aid toward students who would best fit the college, with no prior consideration of their socio-economic background.”
To supplement the study’s findings, the Times published interactive infographics that allow users to examine the economic diversity of more than 2,000 American colleges. Kenyon’s data reveal that the College ranks first of 88 Ohio colleges on its share of students from the top one percent and the top 20 percent, as well as median family income. Oberlin College ranks second in each of these three categories.
Of the 10 schools in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), Kenyon takes the top spot in the same three categories. The College also earns top-20 rankings for these categories when compared to all 2,395 colleges analyzed by the Times.
Kenyon’s share of students from families earning $20,000 a year is 1.7 percent. This is one of the lowest numbers in the country, ranking 2,375th of the 2,395 colleges in the Times’ dataset.
Lauren Wheeler ’18 wishes Kenyon students knew the reasons behind the study’s findings.
Kenyon is able to provide a free ride to some students because of the money the College receives from students who pay full tuition. Student fees, which includes tuition, are funding 78 percent of Kenyon’s $137,426,000 operating budget for the 2016-2017 year. Nearly 86 percent of Kenyon financial aid — or $27,078,000 — is covered by the College’s operating budget. The rest is provided by endowed scholarships, gifts or trust fund scholarships.
“I am here because Kenyon is able to provide full financial aid,” Wheeler said. She is a Pell Grant recipient, which refers to need-based federal grants that help students pay for college tuition. “While I’m not content with the results of the study, if [Kenyon] accepted more students who needed financial aid, I would not be able to be here because my aid would be lower.”
As of 2015, Kenyon’s endowment was $218.6 million, which is significantly lower than the endowments of peer institutions — Oberlin’s endowment, in comparison, is $832.4 million. Colgate University, however, has an $833 million endowment and 22.6 percent of its student come from the top one percent — placing it one spot ahead of Kenyon in the Times ranking.
A small endowment means Kenyon relies more heavily on student fees to provide financial aid.
“Other schools of Kenyon’s caliber accept more students from low-income families, but even less are able to go to the schools because they can’t make up the deficit,” Wheeler added.