Decked out in black tie and formal dresses, guests at Mr. Jefferson’s Capital Ball finished their salmon with horseradish sauce just as the band lured them onto the dance floor with classics including “Shout” and “My Girl.” Some of the people who paid up to $400 a couple to attend the event in the Grand Ballroom of the historic Mayflower Hotel joined in the Electric Slide.
The ball was more than just another Friday night party to ease Washington into the weekend. It had the commendable purpose of raising money for scholarships to the University of Virginia.
But not the kind of scholarships that go to low-income students based solely on their financial need. The proceeds from Mr. Jefferson’s Capital Ball are destined for merit aid for applicants who have the high grade-point averages and top scores on entrance tests that help institutions do well on college rankings. Merit aid can also attract middle- and upper-income students whose families can pay the rest of the tuition bill and therefore furnish badly needed revenue to colleges and universities.
As institutions vie for income and prestige in this way, the net prices they’re charging the lowest-income students, after discounts and financial aid, continue to rise faster on average than the net prices they’re charging higher-income ones, according to an analysis of newly released data the universities and colleges are required to report to the U.S. Department of Education.