From Houston to Harvard

By Ellie H. Ashby

College Rankings — A Function of Wealth and Privilege

There is no greater financial mystery than Harvard’s endowment. However, conversations surrounding the endowments of elite institutions so far have been housed within the bounds of that institution — is it moral for a university to have that much money, what are they doing with that money? But this focus on the internal distorts the dialogue surrounding endowment, college rankings, and privilege, a much more complex conversation that involves deconstructing the supposed binary of the North having exceptional institutions of higher education and the South lacking them.

Harvard's endowment has increased from $41.9 billion to $53.2 billion in the span of a single year. Yale, MIT, Duke, and other wealthy universities announced similar to even greater returns on their own endowments. These values are so large that we grow desensitized to their financial scope; but, one look at the endowments of other universities, like historically Black colleges and universities (which are primarily concentrated in the South), brings to light the larger, cyclical theme of privilege and wealth disparities in higher education.

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The South Is Red, The North Is Blue — But Is That Really True?

Driving in Texas is a way of life more so than a means of transportation. Massive parking garages are attached to every high-rise building. Drivers avoid the rush-hour-infected roads of 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. like the plague. Cruising down the 26-lane stretch of Interstate 10 in Houston at midnight is a rite of passage.

Driving through Texas also comes with an interesting bonus: a front-row seat to America’s political spectrum.

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The South Is Not Your Scapegoat

Growing up in Texas, I only wanted to leave. This desire is a rite of passage for all high school students from the South who end up in the Northeast. We all want to flee the close-minded and traditionalist coffin of the former confederacy and find refuge among the revered Northern progressives. And I think it's a good tradition to have, for in the South, going against the political and social grain triggers an energetic bout of critical thinking.

But then I actually left.

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