SAGE Journal Articles
Journal Article 11.1: Ovink, S. M. (2016). “In today’s society, it’s a necessity”: Latino/a postsecondary plans in the college-for-all Era. Social Currents, 4(2), 128–145. doi:10.1177/2329496516663220
Abstract: Latino/a enrollments at U.S. colleges are rapidly increasing. However, Latinos/as remain underrepresented at four-year universities, and college completion rates and household earnings lag other groups’. Yet, little theoretical attention has been paid to the processes that drive these trends, or to what happens when students not traditionally expected to attend college begin to enroll in large numbers. Longitudinal interviews with 50 Latino/a college aspirants in the San Francisco East Bay Area reveal near-universal college enrollment among these mostly low-income youth, despite significant barriers. East Bay Latino/a youth draw on a set of interrelated logics (economic, regional, family/group, college-for-all) supporting their enrollment, because they conclude that higher education is necessary for socioeconomic mobility. In contrast to the predictions of status attainment and rational choice models, these rationally optimistic college aspirants largely ignore known risks, instead focusing on anticipated gains. Given a post-recession environment featuring increasing costs and uncertain employment, this approach led many to enroll in low-cost, less supportive two-year institutions, resulting in long and winding pathways for some. Results suggest that without structural supports, access to college fails to meaningfully redress stratification processes in higher education and the post-recession economy that significantly shape possibilities for mobility.
Learning Objective: 11.2: Compare rational choice and symbolic interaction explanations for why students succeed—or don’t—in school.
Summary: This article considers increased trends in Latino/a enrollment and examines how low income students are making it to university even with the structural barriers in place to exclude them.
Journal Article 11.2: Bark, T., & Bell, E. (2018, Nov 5). Issue prioritization by bureaucratic leaders: The influence of institutional structure. Administration and Society, 1–36. doi:10.1177/0095399718810194
Abstract: Attention is an important factor in the study of institutional agenda setting. It has been shown to influence the selection of issues to consider and the prioritization of these issues. This article brings theories of issue attention and prioritization to bureaucracy, focusing on how institutional factors affect bureaucracies’ prioritization of issues. Using quantitative survey data and statistical techniques, we assess the impact of institutional factors on the prioritization of competing issues in higher education. We find that these institutional factors significantly affect the prioritization choices of universities, beyond the influence of individual leadership traits.
Learning Objective: 11.3: Illustrate the bureaucratization of education.
Summary: Bark and Bell look at the impact of bureaucratic leadership in universities across four areas of prioritization: equity, affordability, quality, and accountability. The authors then compare these factors in both public and private academic institutions.
Journal Article 11.3: Alon, S. (2009). The evolution of class inequality in higher education: Competition, exclusion, and adaptation. American Sociological Review, 74(5), 731–755. doi:10.1177/000312240907400503
Abstract: This study develops a comprehensive theoretical framework regarding the evolution of the class divide in postsecondary education. I conceptualize three prototypes of class inequality—effectively maintained, declining, and expanding—and associate their emergence with the level of competition in college admissions. I also unearth the twin mechanisms, exclusion and adaptation, that link class hierarchy to a highly stratified postsecondary system in an allegedly meritocratic environment. Intra- and inter-cohort comparisons reveal that while the class divide regarding enrollment and access to selective postsecondary schooling is ubiquitous, it declines when competition for slots in higher education is low and expands during periods of high competition. In such a regime of effectively expanding inequality, a greater emphasis on a certain selection criterion (like test scores) in admission decisions—required to sort the influx of applicants—is bolstered by class-based polarization vis-à-vis this particular criterion. This vicious cycle of exclusion and adaptation intensifies and expedites the escalation of class inequality. The results show that adaptation is more effective than exclusion in expanding class inequality in U.S. higher education.
Learning Objective: 11.4: Describe how schools contribute to the reproduction of social class.
Summary: The U.S. education system prides itself on meritocracy, but deep issues of stratification still permeate post-secondary education, thereby escalating the treadmill of class inequality in higher education.