The New-York Times: Good morning. Today, we focus on the back story behind this week’s huge philanthropic gifts.

By David Leonhardt

The New-York Times-The Morning

MacKenzie ScottEvan Agostini/Invision, via Associated Press

The least for those who need it most

Alcorn State University, Santa Fe College and West Kentucky Community and Technical College are all working-class colleges. Most of their students are lower-income, and many are trying to become the first member of their family to earn a college degree.

If you spend time on any of these campuses, you are likely to come away feeling inspired. The students have often endured hardship — like a dysfunctional high school, an abusive relationship or wartime military service — and figured out how to keep going.

You may also notice something else: The colleges trying to educate these students are doing so on a shoestring budget.

West Kentucky spends $7,200 annually per student on education — money that needs to cover the salaries of professors and support staff, as well as labs and other educational resources. Alcorn State (in Mississippi) and Santa Fe (in Florida) each spend less than $14,000. So does Borough of Manhattan Community College, in New York.

Want to guess how much money Ivy League colleges spend on education per student each year? About $100,000 on average, according to a report by Third Way. Elite public universities often spend more than $30,000.

These funding gaps exacerbate both economic and racial inequality. “The dollars don’t go to the people who truly need it,” Jeff Strohl, of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, told me. Without enough resources, working-class colleges tend to have low graduation rates. Many of their students struggle to find good-paying jobs and to repay their college loans.

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