There’s a great website run by the Institute for College Access and Success called CollegeInsight where you can find all kinds of data on just about any college or university in the US. This is especially helpful as some of these statistics, like average amount of student debt, aren’t clearly advertised on college websites. There’s also an entire section where you can find statistics on the socioeconomic diversity of a college’s student body.

The data for Smith can be found here. It compares Smith’s data to other private 4-year colleges in Massachusetts, and you can also look up national averages for different kinds of institutions.

According to this data (which is for the 2007-2008 school year) out of all dependent students at Smith:

12% have a family income below $30,000
18% have a family income between $30,000 and $59,999
48% have a family income of $60,000 or more

This data is telling about social stratification in higher education as well as Smith’s role as an elite, private academic institution. According to US Census data, the 2008 real median household income was $50,303. So at least 48% of dependent Smith students in 2007-2008 came from households that earned more than the median income. This is higher than the national average of non-profit, private 4-year schools (which had 43%).

Although dependent students from low-income households made up a much smaller percentage of overall Smith dependent students, Smith did have a higher percentage than the average for all private, non-profit 4-year institutions in the US (18% compared to 10%). This might be explained by Smith’s dedication to recruiting community college students.

But the bigger point to be made here is how underrepresented students from low-income backgrounds are in elite colleges and higher education in general. 31.7% of households in the US made $30,000 or less in 2008, so if colleges like Smith were to be truly equitable, we should be seeing one-third of all dependent students coming from that income bracket, not ten or eighteen percent.

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