26.11.2020 in Society

Low-Income Students

The Theory of John Rawls and U.S. Higher Education


Justice is a matter of the society’s internal divisions and its organization. Rawls considers the state in which nobody knows the place they would occupy within the society as the hypothetical original position. The author observes the principles of justice and identifies two of them. The first one is the fact that one should enjoy equal rights to the widest liberties which are consistent with those enjoyed by others. Second, the inequalities should be arranged in a way that makes them beneficial to everybody, and, as a result, no one is disadvantaged to occupy any position. It can be approximated using the experiment of the veil of ignorance. Since no one knows the position they would occupy, any choice would define a social structure that is the best for the chooser once he/she finds himself/herself in the least desirable position. Rawls looks at the implications of the idea of justice for the social institutions. He talks about economic distribution, equal liberty, obligations, and duties as well as the qualities of individuals that would constitute a just society. However, he fails to identify any particular kind of political or social system that can be consistent with this theory. Finally, he says that there is a need to have goodness theory and sees goodness as rationality. He considers how individuals attain sentiments of justice. Rawls examines the connection of fairness and goodness. He claims that the idea of justice must be consistent with goodness.

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Kafka uses unusual situations to present real political and social issues. He discusses the story of a man who sought access to the law. Although the law should be accessible to everyone, the man fails to have an access. The man was challenged to pass the guard to get to the law; however, he fails and, eventually, dies in an old age even after offering his belongings to the gatekeeper to get an access. This brings sharp contrast to the Rawls’ theory of fairness as justice where no one is denied access to any rights. This paper focuses on the application of Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness to the need for equitable distribution of resources and fair treatment to all social classes in the US higher education.


According to Farris and Rieman, the rate of low-income students in the entire United States is 48%. They assert that black children have more chances of being poor than children from other races. Currently, there are 71% of students from Mississippi who qualify for meals meant for those who come from families with income of 185% below the poverty threshold. This number shows that there is a disparity in the distribution of resources in the US.

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According to Gold et al., the inequality exists due to systemic racism, racial discrimination and factors related to the individual efforts. It implies that they do not have access to better-paid jobs and, as a result, remain in the low social class. Therefore, they cannot collect enough money to live a better life and to take their children to the right schools. It contrasts Rawls theory of fairness for justice, since the black American families do not have access to some crucial opportunities.

Rawls first principles is that every individual has equal rights and a broad range of freedom consistent with other members; the second principle is when disparities are reorganized so that they are beneficial to everyone and no one is denied access to any position. It t seems like some races in the US are better off as compared to others. There should be the creation of opportunities for the students of all economic statuses in order to have an equal chance to access all the possibilities. Rawls principles apply only if the US federal government considers moving and implementing necessary legislative steps ensuring all individuals have equal access to opportunities, including jobs and natural assets. In this case families in lower social class would afford their children attending higher education and obtaining equal treatment along with those children from well-off households. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) raised the social status of many citizens as it increased expenditures on education and housing. Therefore, they should be decreased.

Rawls discusses the economic distribution and equal freedom, obligations, and duties as well as the characteristics of everyone that comprises the just society. His argument reflects some useful ideas such as reducing the gap between the rich and the poor that the students concern about. As a result, a solution to the problems faced by thousands of students from low-income families may be found. They have hard times accessing and succeeding in the colleges. They lack support and guidance for preparation, financial aid and persistence in education until their graduation; large gaps remain between the students regarding their educational achievements. Reaching, empowering and inspiring all the students and not paying attention to their social background are both a reflection of the values and an economic imperative.

Half of the high-income families hold bachelor’s degrees when they reach 25 years. However, statistics show that only one out of ten people from low-income families attain such education level. Students from low-income families have fewer chances to attend university and colleges that assure them to succeed. Most students from poor households do not apply to universities and colleges that best fit their academic qualifications, which results in a high degree of academic under-match. Students who attend colleges or universities with more resources show better education results. High-income families in the US have their children excel; they have better chances of securing good positions in the society. The disparity is brought by the economic inequality; hence, lower social classes cannot afford the significant financial outlay for colleges. The principle of equity as espoused by Rawls is very much applicable and can offer a practical solution to harmonize the two levels of income. Promising intervention includes providing financial aid, availing information on college, fee waivers and expected cost.

In addition to the efforts meant to increase college accessibility, it is important to reach students earlier to raise the group of low-income students who are ready for university. Possible appropriate interventions include college visits and summer enrichment platforms, creating a strong culture of attending college in high schools, assisting students to recognize their eligibility to financial aid to be aware that college is affordable.

College advising is crucial for students when they are getting ready to make their applications. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds have fewer mentors who can provide advice or support. There is a need to get more advisors, near- peer mentors and counselors to guide the students from low-income families while applying to college and for financial aid. Pairing students with mentors and availing more counselors will have positive impacts. Studies show that students from low-income families are under-attended by instructors and counselors.

Rawls theory asserts that in a well-ordered society justice is always consistent with goodness. Increasing college access for the low-income students is very beneficial to them and to their families, since their education will help them and improve their future. However, making sure that the students applications to the colleges are successful is also critical and, therefore, follow-ups are necessary. Most of them start colleges not believing in success; besides, in four-year colleges, the remediation requirements for low-income students are too high. However, there have been active measures already implemented, and there is a need to increase this scale in the country. Aligning assessments across k-12, early identification of skills before college reforming the assessments defining the student remedial placement and advancing the delivery of remediation with improved students assistance are a sure way of bridging the gap.

Educational attainment is crucial to the success of the national economy. Job shares require post secondary education. Individuals with only high-school diplomas find it hard to enter the middle class. Today, accessing college and attaining the full college education is unequal. That fact has increased the income inequality and reduced social mobility which has several causes including global competition, new technology and wage stagnation for the most working Americans. Educational inequality is a major hurdle while dealing with the difference in income; it increases upward social mobility for the next generations. College training is one of the most certain ways of entering the middle class, although every year many students find difficulties in accessing and succeeding in colleges.

Higher Education Policies

Some policies have been enacted to ensure that the low-income students access college education and complete their studies. Such policies were formulated to make sure that the Americans have social mobility. The United States made the cost of the college degree as shared responsibility among the states, universities, and colleges, the federal government, students, and families. The Congress and Obama administration have cooperated to invest in higher education. One of the introduced policy measures is the Pell Grant award by over $900. The grant can enable students from low-income families to access college education. The government has also created Opportunity Tax Credit and programs of loan repayment that assist them to manage their debts. Obama administration also proposed legislatures such as student aid reforms bringing sanity to banks and removing the wastefulness of bank subsidies; as a result, the number of low-income students accessing college education rose by over 50%.


Although most people believe that the financial aid can progress the educational outcome, questions can be raised about the efficacy of the current funding system. The financial aid policy has lasted for many years, yet there are still gaps in accessing college income even after putting into consideration the differences in the preparation of academics and achievement by income. High-school graduates from low-income families in the highest academic quartile have the same rate of college attendance with those in the lowest quartile of performance. The gaps, which are evident regarding ethnicity and race, indicate that the system of financial aid has not made access to higher education equal. The system is not dealing with the problems the students face. Although the financial aid can lower the overall college cost, most of the students still have needs that are not addressed. Besides, critics say that the financial aid recipient navigates a tedious and complicated process.

Although the cost met by students after the grant aid is small, the remaining costs are always significant. This implies that the subsidies and the financial aid are not reformed appropriately to cover the cost and enable students’ access or continue college education; it particularly applies to those who come from the low-income background. Students are roughly faced with unmet $7,195 which they must seek loan services to cover the balance. According to Long, even after considering institutional and government loans, students still have unmet need. Research indicates that dependent students have unmet amounts totaling up to $5,911 after loans and grants.


The financial aid has been playing a central role in higher education for a very long time. The amount the students pay after considering the assistance is much less than the smallest prices of catalogs of most colleges. During 2009-2010 College Board, a public four-year college had an average of $9,810 and only $21,240 at a four-year private college (Long)

Even though the system of financial aid is not perfect, numerous researchers support the point that the aid influences the students’ decisions regarding postsecondary education. It implies that the program directly contributes to the rising number of college students’ enrollment. Research has shown that there are ways through which the financial aid policies can improve the registration; therefore, the knowledge can still be used to improve the current system.

Is the Theory Idealistic?

Rawls attempted to model fairness and the initial condition of equality that give a rise to justice and just outcome. It is clear that anyone can move into the original position at any time. Rawls original position enables people to assume an individual viewpoint in the organizations and to make a decision. However, there is a compromise between some of his idealistic and pragmatic views. The idea of rational individuals choosing the greatest quality behind a veil of ignorance is unverifiable and not factual. Individuals may select a social structure with small rewards for the minority and huge rewards for the most of the people. One is more likely to find himself/herself being a member of the majority than a minority. Besides, the veil of ignorance that defines the position of someone in the society removes the knowledge of what someone can do.


The two principles developed in Rawls theory, where every individual has equal rights and a broad range of freedom consistent with the other members’ and reorganization of disparities to act as everyones advantage, reflect the usefulness of the theory in today’s society. The gap between the poor and the rich is still extensive, and the difference is well demonstrated with the growing differences regarding higher education attainment between the low and the high-income people in the US. According to Rawls idea of equal liberty and economic distribution, the US is on the right track to avail increased financial aid to the low-income students to access college education and minimize the gap.

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