Transfer Access from Community Colleges and the Distribution of Elite Higher Education

By Dowd, Alicia C.; Cheslock, John J. et al. | Journal of Higher Education, July-August 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Transfer Access from Community Colleges and the Distribution of Elite Higher Education


Dowd, Alicia C., Cheslock, John J., Melguizo, Tatiana, Journal of Higher Education


The admissions practices of the most highly selective colleges and universities of the United States are under scrutiny for their failure to enroll poor and working-class students (Douthat, 2005; Karabel, 2005; Klein, 2005). This negative attention has been spearheaded by findings reported in two important books examining the shortage of low-income students at the pinnacle of American higher education, Equity and Excellence in Higher Education by William Bowen, Martin Kurzweil, and Eugene Tobin (2005) and America's Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education, edited by Richard Kahlenberg (2004), as well as by research articles (e.g. Winston & Hill, 2005). In a chapter in the Kahlenberg text, for example, Carnevale andRose reported that only 3% of freshmen entering 146 highly selective institutions in 1992 came from the lowest quartile of a socioeconomic status (SES) index and about 10% came from the entire bottom half of the SES distribution (2004, p. 106). Demonstrating a highly skewed distribution of access, nearly three fourths (74%) of students enrolled at these institutions come from the highest SES quartile.

Contributing further attention to the lack of socioeconomic diversity at elites, Thomas Mortenson of the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education began ranking prestigious schools according to their success or failure in enrolling financially needy students, as indicated by the proportion of the student body receiving federal Pell grants (Fischer, 2006a). The findings of these studies have been widely reported (see, for example, Fischer, 2006a; Gose, 2005; Hong, 2005; Selingo & Brainard, 2006), inspiring headlines such as "The chorus grows louder for class-based affirmative action" (Gose, 2005). The controversy raises substantial questions about the way in which valuable educational resources are distributed and the definitions of merit that prevail when elite institutions choose among numerous qualified candidates.

Family affluence clearly affects what type of college a student attends or whether they go to college at all. This is shown, for example, by differences in college participation by high-and low-income students with "medium-high preparedness"--in other words, those who are not at the top of their class but are well qualified for college. Only 3% of wellqualified students from high-income families did not attend college, in comparison to 13% of those from low-income families. Well-qualified students from high-income families were also much more likely to attend a high-priced college than were their low-income peers (52% vs. 20%) (Hoxby, 2000, cited in Bowen et al., 2005, p. 87).

Socioeconomic inequalities in college enrollments raise troubling issues for education in a democratic society. Providing students with the opportunity to enroll at a college appropriate for their level of academic ability, regardless of family circumstances, is a cornerstone of higher education policy (Bowen et al., 2005; Kahlenberg, 2004; St. John, 2003). Maintaining this commitment has become more challenging as per capita government funding for college operating subsidies and low-income student aid has declined (Archibald & Feldman, 2006; Trends in Student Aid, 2006; Weerts & Ronca, 2006). As the returns to a college degree have increased, so has demand (Education Pays, 2006), particularly for spots at highly selective colleges, whose graduates enjoy an even higher earnings premium than others (Eide, Brewer, & Ehrenberg, 1998). Students at elite colleges enjoy additional benefits as well, including a greater likelihood of degree completion and greater access tograduate and professional study (Carnevale & Rose, 2004). These benefits have spawned intense competition for enrollment at highly selective colleges, and the recent increases in socioeconomic inequities in access (Astin & Oseguera, 2004) suggest that upper-income students have successfully utilized their numerous advantages to win this competition.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Transfer Access from Community Colleges and the Distribution of Elite Higher Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?