Paul Tough has made a career researching and writing about education (see here for instance). In The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us, he tackles college, and the outcome is much superior to The Meritocracy Trap, which I reviewed last week. He exposes the tactics of so-called elite colleges to massage their rankings upward (granted, the blind devotion of many parents to the same rankings fosters a dangerous escalation). He shows how low-income and first-generation students are systematically pushed to the side.
He also shows a number of successful programs, some happy accidents (as when the Texas legislature required its universities to automatically accept the top 12% of students in any high school), some carefully crafted (as one at UC Berkeley I briefly taught for). What they show is, by investing enough resources in outreach and mentoring, it is possible to find, enroll, and graduate students from across the income spectrum. We must do it.