July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Study finds 1.3 percent of Rutgers students are in top 1 percent of economy

Photo by Maha Hadaya |

The New York Times reported that 1.3 percent of the student population at Rutgers University belongs to the top 1 percent, a small group of Americans that collectively earns 85 percent of the country’s total income growth.

When considering “the 1 percent” it is easy to imagine fast cars, big houses and extravagant Gatsby-themed parties. But in reality, it could be the student who sits three rows ahead of you in class.

As described by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the 1 percent is the small group of Americans collectively earning 85 percent of the total income growth. In other words, it is 25 times the national average for the remaining 99 percent of Americans, according to Forbes.

New information reports the population of students in the 1 percent outweighs the bottom 60 percent at 38 universities, including five Ivy League schools throughout the country, according to The New York Times

The study published by The Equal Opportunity Project aims to restore confidence in the American dream of higher education by surveying the economic diversity of educational institutions across the country and ranking them by the percentage of students in the 1 percent. Among these schools, Rutgers ranks 547 out of over 1,000, according to The New York Times

The finding that 1.3 percent of Rutgers' student body has members in the 1 percent can be attributed to an economically diverse community of students created by Rutgers, said Thomas J. Prusa, professor in the Department of Economics.

Comparatively, Rutgers has set itself apart as an extremely diverse institution, attracting students from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds has become its strong point throughout the years, Prusa said. Meeting the needs of different educational backgrounds has become a challenge for instructors, but one that the University continues to strive towards.

The empirical evidence that college creates value in lifetime income is overwhelming, thereby setting the standard that many lower income students have of being first-generation college graduates, Prusa said. Rutgers is a state school and does a very good job at servicing a range of financial situations.

Even though Rutgers provides equal opportunities for all of its students, the data shows very little discrepancy among overall success of students based on their financial background, according to The New York Times. Students of lower income attending Ivy League schools performed up to par with their wealthier classmates.

“An interesting question to look at is how this affects people’s choices,” said Barry Sopher, an undergraduate program director for the Department of Economics. “Given that students in the 1 percent aren’t limited by choice of schools many things come into question, such family legacy as a factor of choice."

Sopher said the application process exists for a reason, and the University can help influence student distribution. The state is responsible for aiding students with lower income households via financial aid programs. 

He said he believes Rutgers is a good value for all students, especially in the Department of Economics.

The real issue for students of lower income comes in finding balance between work lives and maintaining focus in school, Sopher said. Too many students are balancing full-time jobs with rigorous course loads, cutting corners in their education as a result.

These struggles are unique to the population of Rutgers students living underneath the 1 percent and present a different perspective of student life. 

Aside from classes, chores and taking care of her dog, comes financial responsibility, said Mariah Rice, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. 

“I pay for my term bill, sign my own loans, my rent, utilities and pretty much everything else except for car insurance. I also need to maintain a steady job just to keep up, and often find myself taken away from schoolwork and other daily activities,” she said.

Rice said she often finds herself stressed out, but that it is just a part of her daily life. She recommends evaluating circumstances before committing full-time to anything.

“I don’t consider myself at disadvantage, having to worry about finances forces me to constantly adapt and move forward. It pushes me to work harder similarly to students on scholarships,” Rice said.

Christian Zapata is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. 

Christian Zapata

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