Kati Haycock is director of the Education Trust in Washington, D.C. Her two recent papers on college access -- Promise Abandoned and Engines of Inequality -- can be downloaded from the trust's Web site, www.edtrust.org.
American higher education is no longer the avenue of intergenerational upward mobility that it once was. Instead of serving as an agent of opportunity, much of higher education has become simply another agent of stratification.
Two statistics are especially alarming. Top-achieving high-school graduates from low-income families now head immediately off to college at the same rate as the lowest-achieving students from high-income families. By age 24, 75 percent of young people from families earning more than $80,000 a year earn a bachelor's degree, while the corresponding figure for those from families earning less than $25,000 a year is 9 percent.