“If the ladder of educational opportunity rises high at the doors of some youth and scarcely rises at the doors of others, while at the same time formal education is made a prerequisite to occupational and social advance, then education may become the means, not of eliminating race and class distinctions, but of deepening and solidifying them.”
This quote is 75 years old, but, shockingly, it could have been written without revision yesterday. It comes from President Truman’s 1947 Commission on Higher Education, and despite the intervening generations, the Truman Report affirms two commonly held beliefs that contemporary research makes unassailable. The first and central conviction is that obtaining a college education is a pathway to the American middle class. The second tenet is that inadequate access or inability to complete a college degree will not simply prevent citizens from reaching the middle class—it may serve as the preeminent barrier to that goal. And that’s a concern for our entire country.