Postsecondary Stratification and the Democratization of Education: Using stratification theories and national data to examine stratification, the community college, and the transfer mechanism in postsecondary institutions
Patricio, Kalia Raquel
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Stratification in postsecondary education has been a persistent issue since education became widely available to women, racial and ethnic minorities, and low-income students. This unequal access to education has significant consequences on where people end up in the labor market because of the strong connection between education and job attainment. Decades of policy have attempted to reduce educational stratification, with expanded community college access being a popular approach. Theoretically, expanded community college access increases the use of the transfer mechanism to reach the restrictive four-year institution and its associated degrees. In the past few decades there have been changes to the demographic make-up of the US and a variety of policy efforts aimed at the k-12 system and higher education funding, yet there is a dearth of recent research to indicate how the transfer mechanism is operating in the current educational environment. This three-paper dissertation uses sociological theory to hypothesize about the potential utility of the transfer mechanism to reduce stratification and uses complex samples logistic regression and recent data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 to analyze the current effectiveness of the community college transfer pathway in reducing stratified patterns of enrollment and outcomes at four-year institutions. Findings from these analyses show that the transfer mechanism is at best an unreliable solution to stratification in higher education. While there is some evidence to suggest that low-income students are utilizing the transfer pathway at greater rates compared to traditional four-year enrollment, the transfer mechanism is doing little to facilitate access to four-year institutions for first-generation and racial and ethnic minority students.