In “Who Gets to Graduate?” Paul Tough examines a problem: low-income students are much less likely to graduate from college than students from middle-class or wealthier families. How can I write an essay responding to one major reason Tough gives for this problem, and one specific solution he proposes to help low-income students succeed?

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“Who Gets to Graduate?” by Paul Tough is an article that was published in The New York Times on May 15, 2014. Tough (born 1967) is a Canadian American writer, raised and educated in Canada, who later moved to New York City. He has written extensively about issues of education...

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“Who Gets to Graduate?” by Paul Tough is an article that was published in The New York Times on May 15, 2014. Tough (born 1967) is a Canadian American writer, raised and educated in Canada, who later moved to New York City. He has written extensively about issues of education and childhood and how they are affected by economic circumstances, especially in Harlem, a predominately black area of New York City. One important issue one might mention in any essay about the article is the way it reflects a distinctively Canadian awareness of the effects of economic and cultural privilege on education.

Tough discusses one particular program, the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan, that seeks to identify and remedy problems of low graduation rates among underprivileged students at the University of Texas. A key issues for these students is that they lack access to the sort of support infrastructure students from wealthy families take for granted and often do not access the supports that the university offers, such as study skills tutors and writing centers.

One very simple solution is placing at-risk students in smaller classes so that instructors can identify how they are struggling and not only tutor them but guide them to the freely available resources on campus. A professor with several hundred students in a class simply cannot provide the sort of individualized attention needed, and graduate teaching assistants may be less familiar with various options than experienced professors. The example of the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan shows how such smaller classes with individualized instruction can help students succeed. The main obstacle to such a plan which should be mentioned in the essay is, of course, cost. Smaller classes cost more money per student than big classes, and that means that universities face two opposing pressures in helping economically disadvantaged students: keeping costs low by having larger classes, and keeping teaching effective by having smaller classes.

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What a fantastic article! The first thing you will want to do is to come up with a strong thesis statement for your essay. For example, the prompt states that low income students are much less likely to graduate from college than middle income or wealthier students. For your part, take a stance on this issue by deciding your own position on the prompt and stating why it is important to reverse this trend.

To support your thesis statement in your first paragraph, let's look at some figures from the article:

If a child is born into a family in the lowest economic quintile (meaning a family that earns $28,000 or less), and she doesn’t get a college degree, she has only a 14 percent chance of winding up in one of the top two quintiles, and she has a 45 percent chance of never making it out of that bottom bracket. But if she does earn a four-year degree...there is a 40 percent chance that she’ll make it into one of the top two quintiles — and just a 16 percent chance that she’ll remain stuck at the bottom.

Remember that statistics are important in support of any argument, but they are only part of the picture. Now, we need to clarify why we need to help low income students succeed in college and what increased graduation rates will do for the larger American economy and public welfare: decreased burden on social services, decreased rates of crime, and increased rates of labor participation and economic welfare.

Benefits of college outweigh the costs A.

Benefits of college outweigh the costs B.

Now, we are ready to delve into the body of the essay.

1)State which social groups are at risk for not completing college ( please refer to the article for this information).

2)State the major reason students from disadvantaged economic groups do not graduate. From the article, we find that many low-income students

a)struggle with academics

b)choose the wrong college (or what the article calls “undermatch”) meaning that most low-income students are afraid to apply to the most selective colleges for fear of rejection.

c) struggle with financial problems.

All three factors indicate that the major reason for low graduation rates among this income group stems from doubt/fear. Now, add interest to your essay by expanding upon this section. Use any real-life examples that you know of, whether from your own life or someone else's, to illustrate the difficulties low income students face in college. If you don't have any real-life examples, refer to the article; Vanessa Brewer's experience is a telling one.

3)Now, you are ready to discuss a specific solution Tough proposes.

a)Discuss Professor Laude's TIP Texas Interdisciplinary Plan, or TIP and the ULN (University Leadership Network) program at the University of Texas in Austin. Define what these programs are and what they do. For example, the TIP program:

i)offers two hours of extra instruction weekly to disadvantaged students who come from low income families and who score in the lowest SAT score quintiles.

ii)assigns dedicated advisers to keep track of student progress.

iii)assigns peer mentors from upperclassmen ranks to motivate students.

Discuss how these programs have contributed to increased graduation rates among low income students at the University of Texas in Austin. Provide some data (please refer to the article for specific numbers).

b)Discuss the U.T. mindset as described by the article. Why is the U.T. mindset intervention program so helpful? Explain why tailoring interventions to target specific groups of students by race and ethnicity is so important.

How successful is the U.T. program? Again, provide some statistics from the article. Alternatively, see if you can also provide statistics from similar programs at other colleges (take for example, Stanford University's 'growth' mindset program). Read more here.

But the disadvantaged students who had experienced the belonging and mind-set messages did significantly better: 86 percent of them had completed 12 credits or more by Christmas. They had cut the gap between themselves and the advantaged students in half.

4)Now, you are ready to conclude your essay. In your concluding paragraph, restate your thesis and affirm your own position on this issue. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also expand upon your thesis:

a)Discuss the global ramifications of increasing college graduation rates among low income students in America.

b)Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action programs in increasing low income student participation in college.

Hope this helps! Great question.

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