A former president of Miami University (in Ohio) was interviewed regarding the second thoughts he now has about the efforts he undertook to make the campus upscale, which he now believes was done at the expense of academics and academic facilities. One interesting portion of the article details how making campuses "upscale" shuts out minority students and students from low income backgrounds:
How did you feel about the issue of access for low-income students while you were at Miami?
The problem that we had was we had this reputation as a tony, upper-middle class school. Part of the problem we had was the sense that there would be a kind of socio-cultural mismatch — that low-income students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds would come and would feel uncomfortable because it was all upper-middle class kids from the suburbs. We spent a lot of money trying to make ourselves more hospitable for students from minority backgrounds or disadvantaged backgrounds. Our challenge was more of a cultural challenge than an economic challenge.
The other problem we had was that we had selective admissions. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds tended to have low SAT scores and come from second- and third-tier high schools and they lacked the rigorous high-school training. There was a general feeling that the really well qualified minority students or the disadvantaged students who had competitive academic credentials would basically get picked off by private universities that had more money to spend.
I'm interested in the idea that the university spent a lot of money trying to make itself hospitable to low-income and minority students. It doesn't seem to fit with the with the rest of the interview, which talks about endeavoring to make the university "upscale". There is a real discomfort that people from lower class backgrounds have in "tony" institutions. What did the money go to? Is it even possible to ameliorate the discomfort a person has being a fish out of water? What did they do, give lower-income students a clothing budget? Did they give finishing lessons? Lessons on what to say when your friends' parents are talking about where to buy a vacation home, when your parents can't even afford a new car? Because as someone who went to a private liberal arts school with a student body very similar to Miami's, that's really what it would take.
ETA: A former professor of mine who is now at Miami posted this link - an intro to women's studies section specifically designed for sorority women. Interesting concept.