ITP | Getting Fit Right: A Multidimensional Approach to Understanding Inequality in College Outcomes

December 9, 2022, Noon-1:30 pm Central Time

259 Educational Sciences and Zoom

Christina Ciocca Eller

Assistant Professor, Harvard University

Christina Ciocca Eller

In American colleges and universities, “fit”—or congruence between student and college along academic, economic, social, and/or cultural lines—is an important component of student success, especially with regards to bachelor’s degree (BA) completion. However, existing literature presents contradictory findings as to where lower-income students fit best, leaving the relationship between college fit and inequality in college outcomes incomplete. Drawing on the concept of psychological capital, higher education research on information asymmetries, and the theory of inhabited institutions, we argue that understanding fit requires elevating three key tenets: (1) the multidimensionality of student resources—above and beyond well-documented or “dominant” resources (i.e., social, cultural, economic and academic resources); (2) intra-individual heterogeneity in resource levels; and (3) the uneven valuation of particular resource types by colleges’ organizational actors. We illustrate this argument empirically using 168 longitudinal student interviews linked with administrative data, together with 30 interviews with college faculty and administrators, in three, less-selective, public colleges. Through this approach, we identify clear gaps between the promise of upward mobility central to the mission of less-selective colleges, and the actions that these colleges take to make good on that promise.

Please register in advance if you wish to attend the presentation via Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. This is the last ITP Seminar meeting of the semester. Meetings will resume in January.