Since I've been banging on about reservations (or quotas) in higher education here in India, I ought to point to a recent New York Review of Books article that has exposed the fallacy of equal access to great colleges in the good ole US of A. Some tidbits:
Ninety percent of Harvard students come from families earning more than the median national income of $55,000, and Harvard's dean of admissions was quoted in the Crimson a few months earlier defining "middle-income" Harvard families as those earning between $110,000 and $200,000.
It is hardly surprising that lots of rich kids go to America's richest colleges. It has always been so. But today's students are richer on average than their predecessors. Between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, in a sample of eleven prestigious colleges, the percentage of students from families in the bottom quartile of national family income remained roughly steady— around 10 percent. During the same period the percentage of students from the top quartile rose sharply, from a little more than one third to fully half. If the upscale shops and restaurants near campus are any indication, the trend has continued if not accelerated. And if the sample is broadened to include the top 150 colleges, the percentage of students from the bottom quartile drops to 3 percent. In short, there are very few poor students at America's top colleges, and a large and growing number of rich ones.
In addition to the main point here, one other fact came starkly home. Whatever my background, as a (non)householder and breadwinner, I am poor by US standards. Very poor indeed.