Opportunity in Decline for Decades Regarding Access

Barton, P. E. (2002). The closing of the education frontier? Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved June 1, 2006, from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICFRONTIER.pdf Many publications today describe the current or near future decline of opportunity for access to postsecondary education. Barton, on the other hand, argues that the decline has occurred for decades.
The author makes an implicit analogy with a theory that early America was defined by the opportunity presented by Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis of the 'opening of the American west'. The Turner thesis was, "Up to our own day American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward explain American development". Accordingly, America changed when the West was closed and opportunity ended in 1893. Using this concept as a counterpoint, Barton questions whether the frontier of educational opportunity has already closed, and thereby changing American culture. He argues that there is empirical evidence that postsecondary educational opportunity has closed, and therefore changing the nature of American society. Barton's data challenges the conventional wisdom that educational attainment has continued to increase during the last quarter century. He paints a picture of an educational system that is not producing more high school graduates, that continues to display great social inequality, and that is not able to support greater proportions of students through to degree in four-year college programs.