THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Last in and first out: poor students in academe in times of fiscal crisis.
The disparity between the experiences of allegedly "deserving and normative" middle class and wealthy students and those of low-income students in higher education is clear when we consider practices that at best discourage and at worst prohibit the poorest of the poor--welfare and former welfare recipient parents--from earning educational degrees. Despite numerous studies confirming the relationship between higher education and increased earnings (Adair and Dahlberg 2002; Greenberg, Strawn, and Plimpton 1999; IWRP 1998; Strawn 1998; Wolfe and Gittell 1997; Thompson 1993), in 1996 Congress enacted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) as a part of welfare reform. Composed of a broad tangle of legislation, this act "devolved" the responsibility of assistance to the poor from the federal to the state level and, through a range of block grants, sanctions, and rewards, encouraged states to reduce their welfare rolls by developing work requirements, imposing strict time limits, discouraging "illegitimacy," and reducing the numbers of applicants eligible for services. The act also allowed for the development of programs and requirements that had the effect of discouraging welfare recipients from enrolling in higher education programs...