College and the Working Class: What it Takes to make it by Allison L. Hurst (auth.), Allison L. Hurst (eds.)

By Allison L. Hurst (auth.), Allison L. Hurst (eds.)

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What kinds of colleges are students attending? Are working class students isolated on our college campuses, especially at fouryear and selective colleges and universities? Although we have a larger percentage 25 CHAPTER 2 of our population having some involvement with postsecondary education than we ever have before, there remain persistent and intractable issues of class and stratification. For the upper-middle class student, college is desirable, expected, and probable. For the working-class student, college may be desirable (and may be not), but it is often beyond one’s expectations and highly improbable.

Finally, we must take note that most studies are looking specifically at “college-ready” high school graduates, thereby dismissing a significant portion of children of the working class. Low-income students are much less likely to be college-ready than other students; fewer graduate from high school, fewer take college entrance examinations, and fewer have the courses necessary for admission to college. While more than 90 percent of students from families earning above the median income graduate from high school, only sixtyfive percent of those from low-income families do so (Association of American Universities, News, Facts and Figures, March 2004).

S. ” Unfortunately, the truth is considerably more complicated. Although certainly college participation expanded after World War II, there were important caveats to this expansion. In many ways, what happened after World War II paralleled the earlier democratization and subsequent stratification of high school. The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (popularly known as the G. I. Bill of Rights, or “GI Bill”) provided tuition, subsistence, books and supplies, equipment, and counseling services for returning World War II veterans.

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