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     Access at the Crossroads Blog

    These blog entires identify best practices to increase success for historically-underrepresented college students including excerpts from my book, Access at the CrossroadsClick here to subscribe to this blog.

    Monday
    Jun092014

    ‘I Need More Information’ How College Advising is Still Absent from College Preparation in High Schools

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    By Makeba Jones.  In the wake of the Great Recession, unemployment and poverty rates among young adults have dramatically increased, especially for those who have not earned bachelor’s degrees (Aud, KewalRamani, & Frohlich, 2011). College attendance and completion are critical for individuals seeking stable employment and economic mobility out of poverty. We know that the institutions at the end of the pipeline—colleges and universities—need to improve graduation rates for students who have grown up in poverty (Johnson & Rochkind, 2010a). As important, students who are earlier in the pipeline—i.e., in high school—need to be prepared for college-level work and expectations (Lee & Smith, 2001). For low-income youth, the transition from high school to college is a pivotal juncture; clearing the college-going hurdle immediately, without delay, increases the likelihood that they will earn four-year degrees (Ashtiani & Feliciano, 2012; Bozick & DeLuca, 2005). One of the most important components of preparation for a smooth transition is college advising. High school counselors are arguably as important as teachers in preparing low-income high school students for college. Nationwide, high school counseling is fragmented. Absurdly high student to counselor ratios, counselor knowledge gaps about college requirements, and increasing pulls on counselor time that have nothing to do with advising students have cracked counseling systems in many public schools (Adams, 2010; McDonough, 2005). And, in recent years, slashed education budgets have pushed already fragmented counseling systems to the breaking point. Our nation’s students are painfully aware of how their school counseling programs are failing them. In 2010, Public Agenda publicized troubling survey results from over 600 individuals between the ages of 22 and 30 about their high school guidance systems (Johnson & Rochkind, 2010b). Results showed an overwhelming failing grade; even young adults who had earned four-year degrees rated their school counseling as poor. The fact that the report presented a national portrait of dismal counseling for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds does not diminish the urgency to improve counseling for low-income students in particular.

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    Wednesday
    Jun042014

    What Matters for Community College Success? Assumptions and Realities Concerning Student Supports for Low-Income Women

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    By Vicki Park, Christine Cerven, Jennifer Nations, Kelly Nielsen.  As open-access schools, community colleges are vital institutions that provide learning opportunities and experiences for students of wide-ranging interests and backgrounds. Compared to four-year institutions, they serve greater numbers of low-income people and students of color (Provasnik & Planty, 2008). California, which has the largest community college system in the United States, enrolls nearly one-fourth of the nation’s community college students (Provasnik & Planty, 2008). The state has developed an expansive, low-cost system of community colleges to serve its especially large and diverse population (Sengupta & Jepson, 2006).  In line with national efforts, California has undertaken a series of reform initiatives to improve student success in the state’s community colleges, especially with respect to completion rates, which have not been up to par (California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force, 2012). For example, only 31% of the 2003–2004 cohort of California community college students seeking a degree either obtained a certificate or degree or transferred to a university within six years of enrolling (Moore & Shulock, 2010). In response to these types of statistics, and in order to improve retention and completion rates, Governor Brown recently signed into law the California Student Success Act of 2012. This legislation is designed to improve completion rates by requiring community colleges to develop student success and support programs with, among other things, expanded orientation, assessment, and educational planning services for students. These types of broad efforts have placed a spotlight on how support services can facilitate student success, and what institutional conditions must exist in order for them to do so. To better understand the barriers to and supports for student success, this report focuses on the experiences of one large segment of community college students—low-income women. In general, women have made significant gains in college enrollment and completion, often outpacing men in both categories (Horn & Nevill, 2006; Wang & Parker, 2011).

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    Monday
    Jun022014

    Unequal Experiences and Outcomes for Black and Latino Males in California’s Public Education System

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    By John Rogers and Rhoda Freelon.  Across the nation there is growing interest in improving the situation of young men of color, who are underrepresented in higher education and dramatically overrepresented in the criminal justice system (Lee & Ransom, 2011). Numerous studies have documented that black males enrolled in school often lag behind their peers academically, have less access to rigorous coursework, experience racial bias from school personnel because of lower expectations for boys of color, and are more likely to drop out (Gregory, Skiba, & Noguera, 2011; Holzman, 2010; Howard, 2008; Jackson & Moore, 2006; Sharon et al., 2010). Although it would be reasonable to expect that Latino males face similar challenges, there are few comparable studies that reveal their experiences. Given the new demographic realities facing the nation—and facing California in particular—it is important that we gain a better understanding of how both groups fare in the state’s public K–12 and postsecondary education system.  The research described in this policy brief is part of a larger study, Pathways to Postsecondary Success, which examines the educational pathways of America’s low-income youth, especially in California. We focus here on young black and Latino males because they are nearly 3.5 times as likely as white children to live in poverty (Davis, Kilburn, & Schultz, 2009) and, in comparison to many other California youth, experience relatively low high school and college graduation rates.2 With these issues in mind, we sought answers to the following questions:

    1. What inequities do Latino and black males encounter in California’s public schools?
    2. What disparities in educational outcomes do Latino and black males in California face?
    3. Are some public high schools better than others at promoting the achievement and success of these particular subgroups? What characteristics do successful schools share?

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    Wednesday
    May282014

    Mentorship and the Postsecondary Educational Attainment of Low-Income Youth

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    By Mariam Ashtiani and Cynthia Feliciano.  The relatively low educational attainment of youth from low-income backgrounds has been a long-standing social problem in the United States. For decades, researchers and policymakers have been concerned with reconciling the ideal of an American educational system that allows ample opportunities for upward mobility with the reality that educational outcomes are strongly linked to other factors, including family income (Davis-Kean, 2005; Duncan, Yeung, Brooks-Gunn, & Smith, 1998; Duncan, Featherman, & Duncan, 1972; Mare, 1980; Teachman, Paasch, Day, & Carver, 1997). In an era that has witnessed staggering increases in class inequality, the importance of earning a college degree has never been greater, and yet the availability of resources that facilitate college access and completion for students who grow up in poverty is steadily declining (Duncan & Murnane, 2011; Kahlenberg, 2010). Mentors, who can serve as role models or spark a sense of possibility for the future, offer one important avenue for low-income youth to gain access to important information and tools necessary for academic success. This brief explores the significance of mentorship in the college entry and completion of low-income youth. Drawing from a nationally representative longitudinal study of American adolescents, we address three main questions:

    1. Does being mentored affect the college entry and completion rates of low-income youth?
    2. Are certain types of mentorship more beneficial to low-income youth than others?
    3. Are certain types of mentorship more beneficial to low-income youth than to middle/high-income youth?

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    Monday
    May262014

    Postsecondary Educational Pathways of Low- and Middle/High-Income Youth: Using the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS) to Examine Tenth Graders’ Transitions from High School

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    By Leticia Oseguera.  This work examines the four-year trajectories of a national cohort of tenth graders by socioeconomic status to better understand pathways of educational movement.  Drawing on the Education Longitudinal Study, we identify large differences in post high school transitions, conditional upon the type of educational status one secures during high school, across low-income and middle/high-income samples. Only when we take into account college readiness at high school graduation do we see similar proportions of low-income and middle/high-income students make the transition to college immediately after high school graduation. As the population of low socioeconomic status students in the U.S. continues to expand and the importance of obtaining a four-year higher education degree increases, understanding students’ post-high school behavior in light of their secondary education outcomes can guide policy to identify and close the gap in the pipeline to college access.

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    Wednesday
    May212014

    Postsecondary Educational Pathways of Low-Income Youth: An Analysis of Add Health Data

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    By Cynthia Feliciano and Mariam Ashtiani.  This study used data from a recent longitudinal survey conducted over a 14-year period to compare the educational pathways of young adults from low-income backgrounds to their middle/high-income counterparts. Specifically, the study examined whether the effect of low-income status in adolescence on postsecondary pathways is better explained by early academic indicators and educational ambitions or higher education enrollment patterns and out-of school responsibilities. The analysis showed that low-income youth are disadvantaged in terms of entry into higher education as well as degree attainment. Roughly half of young adults from low-income families do not complete any postsecondary schooling, and those who do enroll are less likely to earn bachelor’s degrees, partly due to lower educational ambitions and lower academic achievement in adolescence. Post-high school experiences are most decisive, however: Nontraditional patterns of enrollment in two-year colleges, shaped by out-of-school responsibilities such as full-time labor force participation and family obligations, are a key mechanism through which lowincome status in adolescence leads to lower likelihood of degree completion in young adulthood.

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    Monday
    May192014

    Peer-Reviewed Research on Low-Income Students in Postsecondary Education: Trends and Future Directions

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>

    By Vicki Park and Tara Watford.  The simultaneous impact of the Great Recession and a national focus on improving postsecondary access and persistence present both challenges and opportunities for the field of higher education. In this context, questions of how colleges and universities can better support low-income youth are increasingly at the forefront of research and educational reform agendas. The spotlight on higher education places researchers at an important crossroads—we need to assess not only what we know about low-income college students but also where our information gaps lie. Currently, we know that low-income students tend to enter and complete college in much smaller numbers than their middle- and high-income peers (Ashtiani & Feliciano, 2012; Oseguera, 2012) and only 11% of low-income students earn a postsecondary degree by the age of 26 (Institute for Higher Education Policy [IHEP], 2010). Historically underserved populations such as low-income Black, Latino and Native American students are less likely to earn degrees than their White and Asian/Pacific Islander peers (IHEP, 2011). Low-income students are also more likely to attend under-resourced, overburdened community colleges (Provasnik & Planty, 2008; Oseguera, 2012). But apart from these types of descriptive statistics, what research is being conducted on low-income college students? And specifically, how does the higher education field prioritize this research? In this brief, we examine several broad research trends that occur in five key peer-reviewed higher education journals over a 20-year period (1989–2008). In particular, we ask:

    1. How many articles were published that examine low-income youth in the context of postsecondary education?
    2. Were the data on low-income youth collected and analyzed via quantitative, qualitative or mixed-methods approaches?
    3. In what types of colleges and universities have low-income youth predominantly been studied?

    Exploring these research trends allows us to better understand how the field has conceptualized the problems of college entry, persistence, and completion for low-income students. From this understanding, we can formulate research agendas= for the future that will be relevant and informative to initiatives aimed at improving college opportunities for low-income youth. More precisely, we can develop a deeper understanding of how higher education can promote equitable outcomes.

    <Click on this link to download the complete report.>