About This Issue

On an abstract level, the United States is a country fixated on socioeconomic status. Americans routinely note the growing divide between rich and poor while immersed in a wealth-obsessed culture that those who talk of “the American Dream” frame as widely accessible. Yet on an interpersonal level, Americans are quiet about class, a still-taboo topic in polite conversation. This silence extends to the halls of higher education, where belief in meritocracy and discomfort with one’s status can quickly shut down discourse.

The history of class-based critique in education is rich and complex. But as economic pressures and political maneuvering deepen socioeconomic divides, it is more important than ever that we all join the conversation. Socioeconomic status influences where students are likely to attend college and how they fare when they arrive. Student success depends not just on programs and policies, but also on campus climates—and new innovations in liberal education cut across all these domains. By opening the door to conversation, this issue of Diversity & Democracy suggests methods to create more inclusive campus cultures, while providing students with a lens that enhances their ability to effect change, both in college and beyond.

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