Look at the Stats

In these past few months, discussions about racial diversity have taken campus by storm. According to the results of the annual State of the Academy (SOTA) survey published last week in The Phillipian, however, Andover is lacking in socioeconomic diversity. Our socioeconomic background affects our views and opinions just as race and gender do, and thus, we cannot call ourselves a diverse community if our socioeconomic diversity is lacking. Sixty-seven percent of the 844 students surveyed identified as upper-middle or upper class, and 50 percent of students reported that their net annual family incomes to be $150,000 or higher. The United States’ median household income per year in 2012 was $51,017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Therefore, over half of Andover students live in households earning well above the median income. At the same time, however, three-fourths of students believe that our school is socioeconomically diverse. Fifty-five percent of students believe that there exists a social divide between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds. With this statistic in mind, it is apparent that students and faculty must begin to have conversations about socioeconomic equality with the same degree of attention and sincerity as we have recently given to issues of race and gender. The lack of socioeconomic diversity is not the kind of problem that Andover can easily fix; Andover inherently caters to upper-middle and upper class families who have the resources and the information to apply and attend. It is a problem of access. While our need-blind admissions policy helps diversify the institution’s applicant pool, I believe that the school nevertheless fails to attract lower-middle and working class students on a greater scale, perhaps as a result of its prestigious, exclusive reputation. Even if the situation was improved and greater socioeconomic diversity was achieved, Andover would most likely have to provide more financial support to students. In this case, our endowment, though exceedingly large, might only cover these expenses for a limited time, in which case the school would run the risk of being forced to end its need-blind admissions policy. Phillips Exeter Academy faced this problem five years ago, when its decreasing endowment funds failed to support an effectively need-blind policy, which the school had been successfully implementing for four years prior. Though it may be difficult to take the first steps towards socioeconomically diversifying our student body, we must at the very least be aware of this lack of diversity and attempt to fix the problem. Socioeconomic status is a significant part of one’s identity, and in order truly incorporate “Youth from Every Quarter,” admissions officers must advertise our need-blind policies and generous financial aid to the fullest possible extent. The student body should be addressing this situation as well, and campus conversation is a great place to start.