Being poor on rich U-M campus still a struggle as school broadens reach

University of Michigan

Attending the University of Michigan provides big advantages for low-income Michigan students. But these students also can feel apart at a school where the average student comes from families with annual incomes over $150,000. (Bridge file photo)

Classes hadn’t even begun her freshman year when Lauren Schandevel learned her place in the economic pecking order at the University of Michigan.

“My orientation roommate was from New York City,” said Schandevel, of Warren. “And the first thing she said to me was ‘I lost my iPhone in a cab, and so my mom bought me this shitty phone on the way here.’ And she had my exact phone.”

The exchange was dispiriting, said Schandevel, who graduated this spring. “I used to like my phone.” 

The University of Michigan is a world-renowned institution nestled in a community often rated as one of the best places to live in America. Yet despite generous financial aid, the school has struggled for years to increase the percentage of students from low- and moderate-income families.

A new program that offers free tuition to in-state students with annual family incomes under $65,000 is the university’s most ambitious and promising effort to attract high-achieving, low-income students to Ann Arbor.

But what happens to poor students when they enter a campus with a median family income of $154,000, highest among 27 U.S. public colleges and universities classified as “highly selective”; a place where officials once famously spent $400,000 to move a tree?

Interviews with students and their advocates shed light on progress made by one of the world’s top universities to increase income diversity, and the challenges it still faces to ensure these students feel at home on campus alongside children of affluence. 

The university is making progress attracting lower-income students, but U-M President Mark Schlissel contends no school can completely eliminate the social and cultural chasms that can accompany class divides.  

Lauren Schandevel

Lauren Schandevel was inspired to start an affordability guide, called “Being Not-Rich at UM,” which allowed other low-income students to speak to their experiences.

Take Manali Desai, for example. Around campus, she’s a happy, outgoing presence with short green hair and a smile; an academically successful student at a prestigious university. But at a school dotted with gleaming high-rise student apartment buildings, Desai spends as little as $20 a week on food ‒ the equivalent of 95 cents a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I’m really sparing,” said Desai, who will be a junior this fall in U-M’s School of Information. “Eating well here is honestly difficult.”

Fellow U-M student Casey Tin has three paid gigs outside of her classwork at the School of Information. Her main job is at The Michigan Daily, where she is a managing online editor for the daily campus paper and its website. On Thursday and Friday nights, she works in the Duderstadt media center on campus. From time to time, she does temp work at the information school.

“If I don’t have a job every semester, I’m kind of struggling here,” Tin said. “Some people can’t afford to do things that aren’t work-related.”

Where are the poor kids?

At Michigan’s 15 public universities, the average share of students eligible for federal Pell Grants, which are given to students from low-income families, is 38 percent. At the University of Michigan, it’s less than half that rate, 17.9 percent in its most recent freshman class. That’s an increase, but remains the lowest among the public universities.  

Some of that gap can be explained by the rigorous academic standards needed to gain acceptance to U-M. Mid-range ACT scores for incoming U-M freshmen in 2018 were 31-34 out of a possible 36 (the average for all Michigan high school grads in 2016, the last year the ACT was mandatory, was 20.5); the average U-M high school grade-point average was 3.88. 

Here too money plays a role, as standardized scores tend to be correlated with family income as well as race. At the same time though, some other elite universities enroll higher percentages of low-income students. At the University of California-Berkeley, for example, 27 percent of students are Pell recipients; at Northwestern, it’s 20 percent.

The university’s Go Blue Guarantee is meant to fix that by attracting more applications from low-income students in Michigan, many of whom may have assumed U-M was either too costly or not for students from rural or more modest backgrounds. In reality, U-M is the least expensive public university in the state for poor students.

The program guarantees free tuition to in-state students from families with an annual income of under $65,000. In essence, half of Michigan’s families can send their kids to U-M tuition-free if they are accepted.

The program covers tuition only, not room and board and fees. While those expenses are not typically free, they are heavily discounted through other grant programs for most students who qualify for Go Blue Guarantee.

There’s only one year of data so far, but the program has been successful in nudging upward the number of poor and middle-class students. In its first full year, the university saw a 24 percent increase in applications from Michigan teens from families earning less than $65,000, and a 6 percent increase in freshman enrollment. 

Related: Free tuition brings more low-income students to University of Michigan

Students receiving Pell Grants had hovered between 15 percent and 17 percent of U-M students; it reached 17.9 percent in the 2018-19 school year. 

In the university’s 2018 Annual Report, President Schlissel said U-M’s efforts show “we seek to welcome students from all communities and backgrounds who have the talent and desire to be Michigan Wolverines.”

In a recent interview, Schlissel told Bridge he empathized with low-income students who feel like a fish out of water at the wealthy school, but said his main goal is to give them the best academic opportunities possible. 

“I want them to be happy and feel equally valued,” Schlissel said. “But that's not the first goal. The first goal is to get them here and help them be academically successful, so they can launch into a great life. And if it means that, you know, they can't go to a ski weekend in February, well, that's OK.

“It's probably impossible to erase the effects of disparities that come from growing up in a household that's making $25,000 a year as compared to one that's making half a million dollars a year,” he said.  

It turns out, there are plenty of those students at U-M as well. The same family income study, found U-M’s Ann Arbor campus had the highest portion of students from households in the 1 percent (family income over $630,000) among elite public colleges, with 9.3 percent of students in that category. That far outpaced the next-highest school, the University of Texas at Austin (5.4 percent).  

“What's important to me is,” Schlissel added, “regardless of the demographic, particularly the first-generation students and the lower-socioeconomic students, they all get to take advantage of the richness of the academics here, and they get the support they need to progress from year to year and to graduate.”

As an out-of-state student from Chicago, Desai doesn’t qualify for the Go Blue Guarantee. Other need-based scholarship programs, though, have offset her tuition and housing costs in a fashion similar to that of the in-state grant program because Desai comes from modest financial circumstances. 

Still, she has had to make sacrifices. Desai says she can’t afford restaurants where other students gather and rarely spends money on entertainment. She tries to keep total monthly spending beyond housing to $250. Her grocery shopping rarely strays from basic ingredients that can be bought cheaply: bread, eggs, onions, hummus, cans of beans and ingredients for Indian food.

Casey Tin

U-M student Casey Tin has three jobs outside of her classwork. “If I don’t have a job every semester, I’m kind of struggling here,”

While Tin, the student working three jobs, has not had the same issues with food as Desai, she has noticed differences between her social life and her peers’. She avoids using Uber rides for transportation, opting for walking or taking buses during school hours. She skips eating out with friends except on special occasions, and doesn’t frequent the upscale shops surrounding campus. 

Tin grew up in Queens, New York, where the median household income of $64,000 is close to that in the state of Michigan ($54,000), but still about $100,000 less than that of the average U-M student. Neither of her parents went to college. Her father works as a chef, and her mother, is a night-shift janitor.

She came to U-M as a sophomore from the State University of New York Binghamton, where the student body was more economically diverse.   

Her New York City upbringing ‒ a middle-class kid attending high school with wealthy Manhattan teens at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts ‒ was good practice for college life in Ann Arbor, Tin said. 

“I’ve kind of gotten used to that very high-class life where everyone around me has money so it’s become a very numb thing and I don’t think about it too much anymore,” Tin said.

When she works late at the Michigan Daily and her co-workers order food, Tin demures. She does the same when friends invite her on weekend trips. Having no car, Tin must live near campus, where rent for one-bedroom apartments can exceed $1,000 a month. Simple things like going to grocery stores ‒ located miles from campus ‒ are difficult without a car given Michigan’s unpredictable weather.

“Ann Arbor in itself is very gentrified, but people don’t really realize it because they’re like, ‘It’s a cute little college town, it’s a small place in Michigan,’” Tin said. But “it’s very oriented to college students who can afford to do these things, and if you’re a college student who can’t afford to do these things, it’s more difficult.”

Those accumulated difficulties can have an impact on academic success. The graduation rate for non-low-income students at U-M is 92 percent according to data from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Higher Education Policy; for low-income students, it’s 85 percent. 

“There’s a gap,” said Mamie Voight, vice president of policy research at the nonprofit.  “Both Michigan and many institutions nationwide can be doing more to make sure that all students have a fair chance at graduating and graduating at the same rate.”

As part of a larger study of public flagships in the Great Lakes region, IHEP examined policies at U-M to understand how they may affect low-income and minority enrollment and graduation. The study found a 10-point gap in the share of minorities at U-M compared to the state’s high school graduates, and  a 23-point gap in the share of low-income students between U-M and other Michigan colleges and universities.

One way Voight said the university could be more equitable would be a shift even more financial aid to needy students. The university distributes 74 percent of aid based on need, while the other 26 percent is based on merit.

“We know from the research that need-based financial aid can help low-income students or working-class students access college and succeed in college once they get there because it helps them deal with the high cost,” Voight said. “Financial aid programs are certainly one piece of the puzzle.”

College costs, though, are a lower barrier for low-income students at U-M than most public and private universities in Michigan. The net cost of attendance, including food and housing, for students from families earning under $30,000 a year was $3,249 in 2016-17, and $9,895 for families earning $48,000 to $75,000. Both were the lowest net costs among Michigan public universities, a previous Bridge Magazine analysis showed.

But money isn’t the only piece of the puzzle, Voight said. Social status and its accompanying insecurities for many students of more modest background have been highlighted nationally in the past year following admission scandals on several elite campuses involving the rich and famous. 

“There really is a role to play here for institutions to both enroll low-income students and then make sure campus is a welcoming and inclusive environment for them that sets them up for success once they’re there,” Voight said. 

A breaking point

In 2018, the University of Michigan Central Student Government published an affordability guide that unintentionally demonstrated how out of touch some were to life as a poor student on a rich campus. Among suggestions in the guide for saving money: cutting back on housekeeping or laundry services

Schandevel, the student with the modest cellphone, was one of its most outspoken critics.

“To hear things like ‘just stop spending money’ as advice being given by student government to low-income students was really frustrating because a lot of times we don’t have money to spend at all,” said Schandevel, who comes from a family that had a yearly income of about $30,000 while she was growing up. 

“It’s not that we’re spending without thinking about it,” she said. “It’s just that we're coming here with not a lot. I think that was ... a breaking point for a lot of people.”

The controversy led Schandevel to start her own affordability guide, called “Being Not-Rich at UM,” which allowed low-income students to speak to their experiences. The guide proved to be immensely popular, prompting students at other schools including the University of Texas at Austin to start “being not-rich” guides of their own. 

“Somehow,” Schandevel noted, “I became the campus poor person.” 

That was not her only contribution to changes on campus. By the end of her freshman year, Schandevel had begun to advocate with friend Meghan Wheat to launch a social class and inequalities studies minor. It’s now offered in the Women’s Studies department.

Such activism is not uncommon among students like Schandevel.  

“They are risk takers and they are boundary crossers,” said Dwight Lang, a U-M sociology lecturer, and a faculty adviser to the student group First-Generation College Students @ Michigan, which includes many low-income families. 

“It takes a lot of guts for a first-gen to come to a campus where 10 percent or less of the students are first-gens, and they immediately recognize they are different in multiple ways.”

Part of the university’s challenge, according to Lang, is changing outside perceptions about the kinds of students it’s seeking. In the past, the university has been seen as unattainable and unaffordable and, while these stereotypes are still discussed in communities across the state, the university’s active recruitment of low-income and first-generation students is helping to alter those beliefs. 

The Go Blue Guarantee and HAIL Scholarship are two examples of programs to actively recruit low-income students that would have been unheard of a decade ago.

A new program within the College of Literature, Science and the Arts provides a laptop for every student who cannot afford one, shows U-M is moving in the right direction, Lang said.

Other programs at the school and involving student organizations, like the Maize and Blue Cupboard, a grocery store-style food pantry open to students, also help alleviate obstacles.  

A well-funded campus

Students also acknowledge the benefits that come with attending a university with an $11 billion endowment. Tin, for example, was able to go to Italy last summer with the help of her financial aid package and a scholarship through the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Combining these two financial sources, she was left paying only for flights and daily needs.

Schandevel received U-M funding for summer opportunities in the past, which allowed her to pursue unpaid work in her field of study she would have had to pass on otherwise. And she received housing assistance while interning in Washington, D.C. last summer through another U-M program.

Such supports help equalize opportunities for U-M students of lesser means, who would otherwise have to pass on, say, unpaid internships that build resumes and lead to future job offers. Ten years after enrollment, former U-M students from low-income families earn just $3,300 less per year than students from higher-income families ‒ virtually eliminating the wealth gap with which they entered Ann Arbor. 

“The job market is just like a completely different place if you’re a high-income student or a low-income student, and the internships and fellowships and jobs that you have in college really do matter,” Schandevel said. “If you’re not able to have an unpaid internship ‒ and most [internships] are unpaid ‒ that's an opportunity for a job that you're not getting.”

She said she cut corners every way she could so her parents ‒ a father with a high school diploma and a mother with an associate’s degree ‒ wouldn’t have to find money in their tight budget for her education. Still, they’d occasionally drive from Warren to Ann Arbor to bring her homemade lo mein and spanish rice when money was low.

By the time Schandevel ended her senior year this spring and started a full-time job as a community organizer, she had learned to overcome her initial insecurities and had taken pride in her identity as “the campus poor girl.”

“There were moments where I was like, ‘Maybe this isn’t for me, maybe I don’t really belong here,’” Schandevel said. “But the more I realized that those feelings came from socioeconomic differences ... the more secure I felt in myself, and in my background, to navigate college. Now I feel really proud of where I’m from, and how much work I put into coming to a university like this.

“That’s why I’m fighting so hard,” Schandevel said, “so that other low-income students can do the same.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how the University of Michigan distributes student financial aid. It has been updated to reflect that 74 percent of aid is awarded based on financial need and 26 percent based on merit. 

Alex Harring and Sammy Sussman are students at the University of Michigan. This story originated as part of a journalism class project overseen by Bridge senior writer Ron French.

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Thu, 08/01/2019 - 7:12am

That is Life! Everybody has different experiences, backgrounds. If charities want to help people fine, don't tax me anymore.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 8:50am

This article lost me. U-M is increasing its enrollment for low income families by reducing costs and barriers and now the issue is these same kids don't fit in with the rich kids??? And Bridge thinks this is such an important issue it needs to do a deep dive into this massive social crisis?

Slow news week?

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 9:04am

While a prestigious school like U-M may help a student land the first job, after one day on the job it shifts to how you are performing in the job. Maybe this will help the not so rich student in the job as they will have already worked, perhaps even with a paid internship at a local company, while the oh-so-rich student will be left worrying on where to get the latest cell phone or that so special piece of clothing.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 9:47am

I'm glad that Bridge published this well-written student piece. The consequences of social-class disparities among university students has been a hidden topic. In the 1980s, I attended a private university that gave me a large scholarship; from a working-class background, I experienced a fair amount of culture shock for my first 2 years. I was lucky that my fellow working-class students were often eager to talk about how they dealt with the income disparities and what they did to get by. I also had rich friends who shared their perspectives with kindness and authenticity, as well as giving me rides to go grocery shopping.

My son is now an undergrad at U-M. While our family is better off than my family of origin, we are well below the average family income at U-M, and he gets a substantial amount of financial aid. Before he arrived on campus, I talked about my private university experience so that he would be prepared for some of the inevitable surprises. I think the income disparities and expectations have grown enormously over time, so I am very glad that I could give him some knowledge and context. I think the "Being Not-Rich" guide is a brilliant idea!

Renee Collins
Thu, 08/01/2019 - 1:00pm

I agree.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 9:48am

They cater to out of state students. That's where the money is.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 10:59am

After reading this, my first thought was, you have got to be kidding me.

Michigan's colleges have always had successful low income students and that includes UM.

We either lived in dorms (where we at least got fed well) or in a student ghetto with lots of other students in the same boat we were in.

Working between semesters and often during semesters has been a norm for, let's see now, forever?

UM has a high test score bar for freshman admittance. However, UM also recognizes performance in other ways. Attend UM Flint or UM Dearborn, get good grades and you'll likely have little trouble transferring to Ann Arbor.

As for feeling and living poor in a community of folks better off financially, buck it up snowflakes. Legions have dealt with this, so can you. Play cards and board games, go to free events that happen every day at UM and the other 14 public university campuses. Socialize with your neighbor classmates. Get a job. Poor, rich or in between, your days at UM or any Michigan university will likely be among the happiest and most rewarding days in your life.

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 11:18am

It would be nice to be able to go to Dearborn or Flint and then transfer to Ann Arbor. But remember, this is being written about low income students. Those other campuses do not offer free tuition like AA does. My son got accepted to both, but is currently at GRCC, hoping to transfer to AA as a Junior.

Lee Trucks
Thu, 08/01/2019 - 11:00am

Of for those days of $20.00 a pint for blood and a little extra money for psych experiments. (I still wonder what some of those drugs they gave me were.) I don't remember they occasional bouts of couch surfing fondly, but I do appreciate those friends who were able to put me up occasionally. My friends seemed to understand that no I couldn't go out for pizza and beer as they shook their heads condescendingly. And this was in the 1960s when a state student could do two semesters (tuition, books, room and board, etc.) for less than $1500.00 a year. I can't imagine what it is like now.

john chastain
Thu, 08/01/2019 - 12:57pm

As is often the case with comments related to Bridge articles we have the usual suspects whining about taxes or being ignorant and dismissive about real problems. The effects that income inequality has both on campus and throughout the Ann Arbor area is something one needs experience to understand intelligently. I live in the Ann Arbor area for reasons unrelated to the college and there is nothing that isn’t affected by the college and the wealth attracted to it. Housing, essentials like food, clothing and health care have higher price points than many can afford. Some can be offset, others like housing cannot. Ann Arbor is a socially liberal community, but when it comes to housing and some types of employment (nannies especially) this is a predatory capitalistic area no different than Trumps New York City. The u of m president talked about ski trips, for some its about food and shelter, especially during non academic times of the year. For those of us not on grants and assistance this can be a hard place to live. The working class here struggles as much as in many other areas of Michigan, its just disguised under a more hipster costume.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 4:40pm

Move then.

john chastain
Fri, 08/02/2019 - 3:16pm

Realizing that any response to a reply lacking intelligence and integrity simply feeds the trolls still I feel a response is necessary. There are people who for one valid reason or another are not in the position to move. Some because of family, some because of infirmity and some because their social economic situation makes moving impossible. The thing that I find fascinating about the callous response “move then” is that it transcends political boundaries. Both conservatives and liberals use the same ignorant response to people for whom “move then” is dismissive of situations that are often not of their own making. It is the same knee “jerk” response to rural communities as it is to urban ones. It is the same response directed at both the peoples of Appalachia and Detroit. Its one large reason why Trump is president and America’s version of capitalism creates so much income and social inequality. I have no more tolerance for liberals who neither understand nor care about the challenges facing rural communities than I do the conservatives who feel the same way for urban communities. I don’t know which you are and don’t care either way. Only the privileged think “move then” is an appropriate response to economic adversity and I’m not “privileged” that way. Nor would I want to be, eh.

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:54am

I agree that for many 'moving' is not an option, whether psychologically, physically, or socially, but to diminish a person for a simplified comment is no less undervaluing that person then you feel is being done by saying, 'Move then.'
For many a few words packs of a lot of emotional frustration and an offer of action without turning it into a personal attack.
I am frustrated by hearing the political rhetoric about problems and people with no offer of ideas or interest in a conversation to resolve the causes of those problems other then saying the government needs to act.
Life is not fair and anyone who whines about that unfairness is at best delusional, wealth gap is just one of the indicators of unfairness, though it is one that individuals have the best opportunity to control. The reality is Ann Arbor is an unusual pocket in Michigan, if you travel a relatively few miles along I-94 you will be in a more average cost/wealth environment for Michigan and the whine becomes meaningless, even in Kalamazoo the disparity is no where near as noticeable as Ann Arbor. So this whole series of comments fall flat in any other community, particularly those with a university.

If the whiners were committed to changing this, it would take a generation, but it could be achieved. It would require the acceptance of three realities, the individual has the critical role/responsibilities in the change, there have to be well defined goals with performance metrics for each involved organization, and the added wealth will raise the costs to all. It will require that every student from the day they start school has an overriding desire to learn and will do what it takes to learn to the exclusion of all else, every organization will have established goals that they can control and regularly report their performance metrics, and that there be no efforts to limit or prevent the rise of inflation of cost in the targeted area.
The choice is ours, turn the next generation into the wealthy or leave it to current practices and even more politicians whining.

Renee Collins
Thu, 08/01/2019 - 12:59pm

Could U-M provide a fund for these students to help offset the extremely high cost of living in Ann Arbor?

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 1:31pm

I’m sure any check you write would be welcome. You first.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 6:43pm

So what? You are going to U Of M. Yeah you don't have the same cash flow as other kids. I also guess that's been the case since you went to 1st grade. Welcome to the real world. I grew up with friends who had a lot more than me. You will be there someday and it will make you a better person and better taking care of money.

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 7:03am

My son attended UM; had a desk job at Markley for the two years he lived there, and watched the “rich kids” from NY move in with every convenience and leave for home in the spring with those conveniences stacked out at the dumpster. Did he whine that he couldn’t have those things and had to work for the four years he was there? Nope! He and a buddy retrieved and sold that stuff! Somehow, he remained happy and busy despite having a “shitty” phone. He then attended med school on full loans, worked his butt off to pay them off, and is living a wonderful life. Did we regret that we couldn’t give him everything he needed and he had to figure out some of it on his own? Nope!

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 8:47am

I think it would be cool if y'all did an article on the Maize & Blue Cupboard, a new resource in campus that provides free groceries and household needs to anybody with a valid MCard!

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 2:21pm

Good grief people. Entitled much??

Ben W. Washburn
Fri, 08/02/2019 - 5:32pm

Contrary to many of those who have commented before me, I thought that the writers did a pretty good job of describing both the conflicts and upsides which lower echelon students encounter in a university setting. This same thing happens not just at U of M, but virtually at all colleges and universities. It will be a sad thing if and when this phenomenon no longer occurs, because every remaining vestige of upper mobility has been stifled.
One big reason that U of M has a huge endowment fund, is because it was one of the very few back in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, which did not discriminate against jewish students. Now, up to 5 generations of east coast well-to-do jewish grads are avid fans of U of M athletics, and that makes a huge impact upon the gate-take anywhere that a U of M team appears. And it makes a big impact upon the U of M Endowment Fund. As a first-time college graduate from my family, and in retrospect, I'm unabashedly proud of my Alma Mater in that regard.
More importantly, back then, the Michigan public was much more supportive of college education. As I recall, tuition in 1959 was only about $1,600 for the year. On the GI Bill, I got $2,500 per year in benefits. But, I still had to cover my living costs. So, I worked four part-time jobs: Counter clerk and summer-time truck delivery relief for the Varsity Laundry; pizza delivery and dishwasher for the Cottage Inn; kitchen manager and buyer for the Delta Fraternity; and landscaper for the church across Washtenaw. Yeah, there was no time for fun; but it was still doable acting strictly on my own without family support.
I am therefore relieved that at least a few lower-income students are still being enabled to do what I did.
There should be no free lunch. But enabling upward mobility, for those who are willing to endure it's challenges, should remain a steadfast and central American commitment.

John Chastain
Fri, 08/02/2019 - 8:56pm

Ben this is not 1959 Ann Arbor and comparisons to that time are neither relevant nor accurate. This isn’t about athletics nor an upward mobility that is more of an illusion than a reality. The only item you mentioned that is relevant is debt load, you didn’t have any. You also ignored the exaggerated housing costs both for low income students and the surrounding community. The impact of wealthy students and other professionals has drastically warped the housing market, also a local government captured by the investor community overlooks abuses that are reminiscent of slum lord of New York or Chicago. Your comment is an exercise in nostalgia that poorly understands today’s Ann Arbor & U of M’s impact on the working class communities around it.

Ben W. Washburn
Sun, 08/04/2019 - 11:10pm

Some times change; others do not. When I came to Ann Arbor in 1959, it was the second most expensive place to live in the whole USA, right next to Washington, D.C.
But Michiganders back then shelled-out big bucks for student education. They don't do that any more.
There are reasons. In 1959, American take-home income was rising sharply. Only 25% of that rise was slotted into income tax.
When your boat is rising, you do not notice that it might have risen just a little more.
But, since 1980, those boats have all been sinking, except for the increasingly fortunate 10%.
We actually have no one to blame for this misfortune other than ourselves. I will continue this message with another, but have previously been cut short 3 times by a total blankout.

Ben W. Washburn
Sun, 08/04/2019 - 11:30pm

Get Real! You only need to get about 20 commuting minutes away to find affordable housing. Look. I grew-up in a Kentucky farming community. At the University of Kentucky in 1953, I lived in quansette huts left over from WWII. At $25 per month, they were warm, clean and cozy. What are you doing to create such basic quarters for today's upwardly mobile students? Seriously, your complaints are hollow.

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 8:19am

I get the impression that Bridge's readership is better educated and more thoughtful than the Kardashian aficionado set. It is therefore surprising to me how many commenters seem completely unaware of the growing gap nationwide between the uber-rich and the economically disadvantaged (it's no secret; it's written about and reported on). U of M is a good example of this situation, in spades. It is arrogant to assume that everyone comes from the same economic, religious, political, or cultural background.

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 8:32am

I disagree with your premise, after reading the comments. It is not that those make comments are "completely unaware of the growing gap nationwide between the uber-rich and the economically disadvantaged" but that they are aware and simply do not agree this is a huge crisis (as far as on campus assimilation) and that these same commenter's faced the same challenges and dealt with it. Therefore, the students of today can deal with it too. Life is neither easy nor fair but you are attending the top public university in the state ... deal with the awkward social interactions that sometimes come with this privilege.

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 10:20pm

I am one these readers that you feel is unaware of the 'wealth gap', please help me understand what is so bad about this gap, or how it is a recent American phenomenon, and any other concerns that you feel I am unaware of or under appreciate. I have thought about the issue and struggle to see how it is nothing more than a political rallying cry. I do recognize the breadth of the 'wealth gap' we can see it on TV every day, I recognize the income gap for not only do we see it regularly, I am on one the local United Way impact review panels that works with housing related agencies for people in the ALICE category.
I hear regularly the out cries about this 'gap', what I don't hear is why it is such a concern and what are the barriers to mitigating the impact of the gap. Please help me understand.

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 9:41am

This article is confusing, I have read on Bridge how the benefits of a university education is to gain the knowledge and skills that can help one create their own success [college graduates a million dollar more] and share it with family. But is seems the writers, editor, and Bridge are now attacking that view, telling us that such success creates unfair pressure on other students [whose parents have lesser incomes]. Which is it a college education can help achieve financial success or it is wrong to share success with family?
The article sees only the socioeconomic status of parents ignoring the student role in University success, it ignores admission to the University is only an opportunity and not an assurance of a degree, and the article forgets that parents are a personal examples for their children, K-12, for learning, for how to learn, for what it takes to learn, and why to learn [with financial success only one of the benefits]. It is the old adage, ‘what you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.’
Listening to the rhetoric that has been broadcast from Detroit recently, is this a personalized contribution in the conflict going on between socialism and capitalism, the conflict in a marketplace that sees more value [financial] for added knowledge and skills gain from a college education and the political rallying cry about the ‘wealth gap’?
Why would we be served an opinion piece framed as an article so neatly time with the national political campaign centered in Detroit? Why would we hear how bad it is for others when the ‘1%’ are sharing their success [a lost phone?] with their children? Why would we be hearing one of the touted benefits of a college degree is harmful to those who are starting on their path to a college degree?
Our third generation is now on the path to earning degrees, they have learned that it is about what they do and not about what others have that will determine their success.

Manali Desai
Fri, 08/09/2019 - 7:51am

I was mentioned in the article but important context on my life was left out. I may not have conveyed it well in the interview, but either way I’ve emailed the editor about it. The editor had emailed me asking for more information before the article was released, but I didn’t see it in time because I was abroad, which is my own fault.

Anyway here’s some context:
I actually get more then enough aid from the university in a combination of merit/need-based aid that I’m very thankful for. I’m a recipient of the Posse scholarship which actively recruits students who normally wouldn’t attend such a university and I get some extra merit aid. My aid package isn’t a normal one and I’m definitely in a unique minority of people who gets more then enough aid. As was said my family is from a modest background similar to Casey.

The main point that was neglected is that I’m really sparing with my money *on purpose*. I’ve lived my entire life being cautious with where my money goes. That’s not going to change because I suddenly have enough money to take a ski trip in February(well maybe, I don’t know how much that costs). I save up as much aid as I can, so I can spend it volunteering and interning abroad like I’ve done for the last 2 summers. I never got to travel growing up so I’m making up for it.

I also have a part time job to cover day to day living in Ann Arbor. I prioritize experiences and necessities not luxuries when spending money. If I can get something cheaper somewhere else(avocados are cheaper in Chicago) I’ll wait till I can go there. I’m sparing with groceries in Ann Arbor because I can’t find the variety I want at a good cost, so I bring back groceries from Chicago when I can.

I’m extremely privileged to have a choice in where I spend my money because I get more then enough aid. I’m sparing with money on purpose, but it’s not a struggle out of necessity it’s more out of habit and my own values/priorities. I know people where buying food and staying in school financially is a genuine struggle and I don’t want to cheapen that.

If you read this, thanks. I’ll try to reply to questions if you have them. Please be respectful.

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 8:32am

Thank you for your transparency. You have already learned skills that will be greatly beneficial to you throughout your life. Best of luck to you!

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 11:15pm

When my sister attended U of M in 1950, tuition was $150/year. Correcting for inflation, this amounts to about $1600 today. The MI Legislature has not provided the level of support to State colleges that was done back then. Other factors are the escalating cost of managing a University and the need for a college education to get a good job. Student debt now surpasses credit card + automobile debt combined. Not good news.