UH battles income inequality
The Pew Research Center released a study that reveals residential segregation by income is rapidly rising across the United States, and Houston is not exempt. Houston alone has a 37 percent share of lower-income households residing in majority lower-income neighborhoods.
The Pew Research Center came up with a scale to measure residential income segregation; Houston, along with Dallas and San Antonio, was almost at the top of the list.The University of Houston has been acclaimed by the Princeton Review and the US News & World Report as being notably affordable for obtaining useful degrees.
“The (University) was founded for the children of middle-class workers. The tradition lives on today. The overwhelming majority of students come from lower middle-class and working-class families,” said sociology associate professor Jon Lorence.
Bridging the gap between upper- and lower-income families comes from a rise in higher education enrollment rates, said the Center for Houston’s Future in its 2012 Community Indicator Report. One survey in the report, analyzed with data from the 2010 census, shows an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent or less for Houstonians who obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is less than the 10.3 percent unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma.
The Board of Regents voted in May 2012 not to raise tuition costs. UH continues to be one of the schools from which students graduate with the least amount of debt, said Frank Kelley, associate dean of undergraduate studies of the C.T. Bauer College of Business.
“The income inequality is affecting our students more because their families are not increasing their income. It makes it more difficult for them to pay for the expenses of college,” said Lorence.
Biology senior Marisol Bustamante feels that coming from a middle-class family has greatly affected her education.
“It’s taken away from my study time. If I didn’t have to work, I would have more time to study. It takes away from potential opportunities,” Bustamante said.
For those that do have to work and study, solutions for saving money are all over campus, from living off-campus to using secondhand school supplies.
“An economic program could be developed where students network to pass down books. Something like this would really help with book expenses,” said neuroengineering junior Joel Uribe.
While the economic gap may cause some struggles, Kelley believes that the issue will remedy itself over time as new students adjust.
“Houston is a gateway for immigrants. On the surface, there is a growing disparity between classes, but beneath the surface, the number rises because many individuals are new to Houston and new to the United States,” Kelley said.
To help reduce debt, UH gives approximately 70 to 72 percent of students some sort of financial aid, whether that be a waiver or a loan.
“I will not have student debt when I graduate,” said finance senior Ileana Perez.