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Suzanne Mettler, the Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions, examined the effects of the American higher education system on social and economic inequality, Oct. 25, 2013 as part of Cornell's Trustee-Council Annual Meeting.

Since the 1980s, says Mettler, the United States has abandoned its role as the international leader in college graduation rates and its historic legacy, from the creation of the GI Bill up through Pell Grants, of expanding access to college across the income spectrum.

Today, by contrast, our higher education system is exacerbating social and economic inequality, by leaving many of the least advantaged students sequestered in for-profit colleges that leave them indebted and often worse off financially than if they had never attended, and many low- to middle-income students in public universities and colleges where resources are increasingly scarce and graduation rates have plummeted as a result.