Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

A Typology of Federal and State Programs Designed to Promote College Enrollment

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

A Typology of Federal and State Programs Designed to Promote College Enrollment

Article excerpt

Over the past four decades, policymakers have developed numerous policies and programs with the goal of increasing college enrollment. A simple Google search of the phrase "college access program" generates 226,000,000 hits. Entering the same terms into the search engine on the U. S. Department of Education's Web site generates 500 hits.

Despite the apparent plentitude of policies and programs, however, college access and choice for recent high school graduates remain stratified by socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity (Thomas & Perna, 2004). Young people from low-income families and whose parents have not attended college, as well as those of African American and Hispanic descent, are less likely than other young people to enroll in college. When they do enroll, these students find themselves concentrated in lower-priced institutions, such as public two-year colleges and less-selective four-year colleges and universities (Baum & Payea, 2004; Ellwood & Kane, 2000; National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2003, 2004; Thomas & Perna, 2004).

Despite a dramatic expansion of higher education enrollments over the past three decades (NCES, 2004), persisting gaps in participation suggest that existing policies and programs are not accomplishing their underlying goals. Efforts to understand why policies and programs are not working are hampered by the absence of a framework for organizing the myriad efforts designed to reduce participation gaps and, by extension, for demonstrating policy blind spots and redundancies. Such a framework is necessary to assist in organizing, and thus simplifying, the complexity of the policy domain for college participation--a complexity defined in part by multiple policies and programs sponsored by multiple entities at different levels of government. By characterizing the ways that particular programs are intended to encourage enrollment, a typology provides a necessary first step in an empirical examination of the ways that programs separately and together shape higher education opportunity for different groups of students.

Hearn's (2001) assessment of federal student aid policies and programs offers three conclusions that are useful for understanding the nature of college-enrollment policies and programs more generally. (1) First, Hearn shows that federal financial aid policies and programs lack "philosophical coherence," as reflected by the wide array of distinct goals, including promoting access for low-income students, improving college affordability for middle-income students, rewarding achievement, advancing economic development, and encouraging human capital investment. Second, Hearn notes that federal student aid programs lack "well-considered patterns of policy development." In other words, over the years there has been "no systematic 'housecleaning' to reduce the policy and program contradictions, inefficiencies, and illogics accumulated in the years since the Great Society era" (p. 269). Periodic amendments to the Higher Education Act have altered only "operational details" of the programs. Third, Hearn observes that, taken together, federal student aid policies lack "programmatic clarity and distinctiveness." In other words, based on his review of the literature, Hearn concludes that, "instead of an array of clearly discrete programmatic efforts addressing in distinctive fashion a set of overarching policy objectives, constituents for the programs ... confront an array of overlapping efforts with rather vaguely differentiated objectives" (p. 270).

The absence of philosophical coherence, systematic and intentional policy development, and program clarity and distinctiveness in federal financial aid policies and programs and, by extension, college-enrollment policies and programs more generally, necessarily complicates attempts to assess the effectiveness of these efforts and identify required improvements. As a way to inform policy, practice, and research relating to college enrollment, this study develops a typology of college-enrollment programs to sort out the tangled web of governmental efforts in this area. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.