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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
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Educational aspirations and postsecondary access and choice : students in urban, suburban, and rural schools compared / Shouping Hu.
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1 of 13 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 11 Number 14April 29, 2003ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .Educational Aspirations and Postsecondary Access an d Choice: Students in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Schools Comp ared Shouping Hu Seton Hall UniversityCitation: Hu, S. (April 29, 2003). Educational aspi rations and postsecondary access and choice:Students in urban, suburban, and rural s chools compared. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11 (14). Retrieved [date] from data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 ( NELS: 88 ), this study examines educational aspirations and postsecondary access and choice by students in urba n, suburban, and rural schools. In addition, this study raises issue s with the methods in postsecondary educational research by using student s in different grades (8th, 10th, and 12th grades) as baseline population s to compare educational outcomes. The results indicated that st udents in urban schools were comparatively disadvantaged in the ear ly years in schooling in terms of postsecondary access but appeared to be enrolled in


2 of 13postsecondary institutions at similar percentages a s their suburban counterparts, if they made it to later years in K-1 2 schooling. For those students in urban schools who went to college, high er percentages were enrolled in private institutions and four-year coll eges. Students in rural schools were consistently disadvantaged in postseco ndary aspirations and enrollment, compared to students in other schoo ls.IntroductionEducational researchers and policy analysts have be en interested in educational quality received by students in different types of schools for years. For instance, Anyon (1997) revealed how urban schools were failing students in her study on the Newark public school system in New Jersey. DeYoung (1987) reviewe d research on American rural education and suggested the challenges rural school s were facing in educating school children. Researchers also suggested that students in different types of schools have different levels of academic achievement and educat ional attainment due to the disparity in family and school resources (McDonough, 1997; Ro scigno & Crowley, 2001) and student learning opportunities (Adelman, 1999). How ever, very few studies examined how postsecondary opportunity was distributed among students in different types of schools as classified as urban, suburban, and rural schools, even though postsecondary readiness and participation are among the most impo rtant issues in the state and federal higher education policy arena (Heller, 2001; Nation al Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2001). This is a troubling situation in light of the increasing calls for strengthening the connection between K-12 schools a nd higher education institutions (Maeroff, Callan, & Usdan, 2001; Stampen & Hansen, 1999). As researchers (Hannaway & Talbert, 1993; Shouse, 1998) have found that scho ol context is important in identifying the effective practices in schools, school context would logically also be important in the efforts to bridge K-12 schools and postsecondary in stitutions (Maeroff, Callan, & Usdan, 2001).Furthermore, when studying postsecondary access and choice, researchers need to carefully consider how to conceptualize the ideal o f equal educational opportunity (Burbules, 1999; Howe, 1997), because there is larg e disparity in the dropout rates among students in urban, suburban, and rural schools (Ros cigno & Crowley, 2001; Rumberger & Thomas, 2000). For example, using NELS data to exam ine enrollment decisions by 12th graders, Perna (2000) found that students in urban and rural schools actually were more likely to go to college than their suburban counter parts, controlling for student characteristics and a series of other factors. Stud ent transition from the 12th grade to college is a research area of significant policy im portance. However, it alone may not adequately address the disparity in postsecondary o pportunity because some disadvantaged students dropped out of school before reaching the 12th grades (Alexander, Entwisle, & Kabbani, 2001; Orfield, 198 8).PurposeThis study focuses on the critical transition point s in student pathways to postsecondary education. Student pathways to college are consider ed as a multi-stage process including educational aspiration formation, academic preparat ion, and actual enrollment in college, a process could start as early as the 7th grades (C hoy, Horn, Nuez, & Chen, 2000;


3 of 13Terenzini, Cabrera, & Bernal, 2001). Based upon pre vious research (e.g., Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001; Hossler & Gallagher, 1987; St. John, As ker, & Hu, 2001; Terenzini, Cabrera, & Bernal, 2001) and different conceptions of the id eal of equal educational opportunity (Burbules, 1999; Howe, 1997), this study examines s tudent educational aspirations and access to postsecondary education by using 8th, 10t h, and 12th graders as baseline populations. Further, for those enrolled in postsec ondary education after two years out of higher school, this study contrasts their college d estinations (four-year vs. two-year, public vs. private) with respect to their 12th grade school o rigin (urban, suburban, and rural schools).Specifically, this study intends to answer the foll owing questions using nationally representative samples: How do educational aspirations measured in the 10th grade differ for students in urban, suburban, and rural schools with the 8th and 10th graders as the baseline population? 1. How does postsecondary access measured two year aft er high school differ for students in urban, suburban, and rural schools with the 8th, 10th, and 12th graders as the baseline population? 2. How does postsecondary choice for enrolled students differ with respect to their origins in urban, suburban, and rural 12th grade sc hools? 3.MethodDataData used for this study were from the National Edu cational Longitudinal Study 1988 (NELS: 88). NELS was sponsored by the US Department of Education National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) to survey a cohor t of students in the 8th grade (base year in1988), the 10th grade (first follow-up in 19 90), the 12th grade (second follow-up in 1992), and two years after high school graduation ( third follow-up in 1994). Recently, the NCES released the fourth follow-up survey of 2000. In order to make the sample representative for different baseline populations, different weights were used in this study (Huang, Salvucci, Peng, & Owings, 1996).Variables and AnalysisTo examine whether there are differences in student educational aspirations and postsecondary access and choice, three outcome vari ables are used in this study on the basis of their socioeconomic significance in indivi dual mobility (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Terenzini, Cabrera, & Bernal, 2001).The first outcome variable is student educational a spirations measured when students were in the 10th grade. F1 (the first follow-up, si milar connotations for F2 and F3) panel weight (F1PNLWT) and F1 questionnaire weight (F1QWT ) were used to project baseline population of the 8th and 10th graders respectively Since “educational aspiration” as a construct has been tested as important in understan ding individual college access and choice by the literature in sociology and education and the survey items in NELS were accepted as valid measures on this construct, it wa s selected as one outcome variable in this study. In fact, Hearn (1992) argued that using educational aspiration as a construct


4 of 13has been “near-paradigmatic” (p. 662) in postsecond ary enrollment research, although he acknowledged some potential issues with this constr uct. The second one is student postsecondary access meas ured two years after high school graduation. The final outcome variable is postsecon dary institutional types chosen by enrolled students measured two years after high sch ool graduation. F3 panel weight (F3PNLWT), F3F1 panel weight (F3F1PNWT), and F3F2 p anel weight (F3F2PNWT) were used to project baseline population of the 8th 10th, and 12th graders respectively for the latter two outcome variables. “Access” deal s with whether students go to college or not and “choice” deals with where students go to college. Both have been considered as important outcome variables in postsecondary pol icy studies (McPherson & Schapiro, 1991).The independent variable in this study is school lo cation (school urbanicity as in the NELS data set) as classified as urban, suburban, an d rural to reflect the sample school’s metropolitan status. Urban represents central city, suburban represents areas surrounding a central city within a county constituting the Met ropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), and rural represents areas outside MSA. The composition of students in the samples during the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades was essentially as f ollows: slightly lower than 1/3 in urban schools, slightly higher than 1/3 in suburban schoo ls, and about 1/3 in rural schools. This study was a descriptive analysis of a national database to indicate the unequal postsecondary opportunity by students in urban, sub urban, and rural schools in their postsecondary educational aspirations, access, and choice. Cross tabulations were used to illustrate the overall differences in outcome varia bles by school type with respect to different baseline populations.ResultsAspirationsBecause there were no substantial differences in ed ucational aspirations by using the 8th and 10th graders as baseline populations, Figure 1 only presents student educational aspirations with respect to school location for 10t h graders as baseline population. Differences in educational aspirations by students in urban, suburban, and rural schools were evident. Higher percentages of students in rur al schools had aspirations for high school or below (16.6% for rural in contrast to 11. 0% for urban and 10.6% for suburban schools) and two year college education (33.1% for rural in contrast to 27.1% for urban and 29.3% for suburban schools), and lower percenta ges of rural students had aspirations for four year college education (28.2% for rural in contrast to 30.8% for urban and 32.9% for suburban schools) and graduate education (22.0% for rural in contrast to 31.1% for urban and 27.3% for suburban schools). There were n o substantial differences in educational aspirations for students in urban and s uburban schools, although it appeared that slightly higher percentage of urban students h ad aspirations for graduate education.


5 of 13 FIGURE 1. Educational Aspirations in the 10th Grade by Students in Urban, Suburban, and Rural SchoolsSource: U.S. Department of Education, National Cent er for Education Statistics, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 199 2. AccessAs presented in Figure 2, student access to college was analyzed by comparing students who went to college to those who did not go to coll ege by October 1992, two years after high school graduation. Student enrollment status i n college by school location was analyzed using the 8th, 10th, and 12th graders as t he baseline populations. First, the percentage of student enrollment in post secondary education increased, when the 8th, 10th, and 12th graders were used as baseli ne populations respectively. For students in urban schools, the enrollment rates inc reased from 50.9% to 57.4% and 63.6%. For students in suburban schools, the enroll ment rates increased from 56.6% to 58.8% and 64.0%. For students in rural schools, the enrollment rates increased from 47.62% to 51.1% and 56.0%. This is understandable b ecause some students may drop out during the middle school and high school schooling process. Second, smaller percentages of students in rural sc hools were enrolled in postsecondary institutions, no matter which baseline population w as used. When the 8th graders were used as the baseline population, the enrollment per centage for students in rural schools was 47.6%, in contrast to 50.9% in urban schools an d 56.6% in suburban schools. When the 10th graders were used as the baseline populati on, the enrollment percentage for students in rural schools was 51.1%, in contrast to 57.4% in urban schools and 58.8% in suburban schools. When the 12th graders were used a s the baseline population, the enrollment percentage for students in rural schools was 56.0%, in contrast to 63.6% in urban schools and 64.0% in suburban schools. Third, although smaller percentages of students in urban schools were enrolled in college


6 of 13than their suburban counterparts when the 8th grade rs were the baseline population (50.9% vs. 56.6%), there were virtually no differences in the percentages of postsecondary enrollment by students in urban and s uburban schools when the 12th graders were used as baseline population (63.6% vs. 64.0%). FIGURE 2. Postsecondary Access by October 1992 by S tudents in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Schools Using the 8th, 10th, an d 12th Graders as Baseline PopulationsSource: U.S. Department of Education, National Cent er for Education Statistics, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 Data Analysis System. ChoiceFigures 3 and 4 present results about postsecondary destinations for students who made it to the stage of postsecondary education. The popula tion, therefore, was students who were enrolled in postsecondary institutions two yea rs after high school graduation. The questions here were, for students who successfully reach the level of postsecondary education in different type of 12th grade schools ( urban, suburban, and rural), what was their distribution in different types of postsecond ary institutions? Two major findings are worth reporting. First, for those who managed to go to college, relatively larger percentages of students in rural schools were enrolled in public institutions (78.5%), while relatively smaller perc entages of students in urban schools were enrolled in public institutions (67.9%), and t he percentages for students in suburban schools were in between (75.4%) (Figure 3). Second, relatively larger proportions of students in urban schools were enrolled in four-yea r college (60.8%), while there was no substantial difference between student in suburban (56.9%) and rural schools (56.4%) (Figure 4). Further analysis (not tabled) suggests relatively larger percentages of students in urban schools (24.4%) were enrolled in private n ot for profit four-year colleges than students in suburban (18.5%) and rural schools (16. 3%).


7 of 13 FIGURE 3. Choice of Private vs. Public Institutions by Students in Urban, Suburban, and Rural SchoolsSource: U.S. Department of Education, National Cent er for Education Statistics, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 Data Analysis System. FIGURE 4. Choice of Two-Year vs. Four-Year Institutions by Students in Urban, Suburban, and Rural SchoolsSource: U.S. Department of Education, National Cent er for Education Statistics, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 Data Analysis System.DiscussionThe influential report Measuring Up 2000 issued by National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (2001) identified preparation for and participation in postsecondary education among the most important postsecondary po licy issues. This study examines these important policy issues in analyzing student pathways to postsecondary education—student educational aspirations, access, and choice in postsecondary education. Keeping in mind that this study is descr iptive in nature, it has important policy implications in the following aspects.


8 of 13First, this study examines the condition of schoollocation related unequal postsecondary opportunity. Compared to what we already know about postsecondary opportunity by students of different background such as gender, ra ce/ethnicity, and socioeconomic background, we have little understanding and even s ome misunderstanding about how postsecondary opportunities were distributed among students in urban, suburban, and rural schools. This study offered an account on the condition of postsecondary opportunity among students in these three types of schools, using nationally representative samples. The results from this study suggest a potential new dimension of unequal educational opportunity—the location of the school. Specially, the consistent patterns of lower-level of educational aspiration, access, and choice by students in rural schools call for policy attentions. Policy makers n eed to consider policy interventions targeted toward to schools in different locations t o promote postsecondary educational opportunity.Secondly, this study raises questions about the con ception of equal educational opportunity and related analytical methods. The res ults revealed that the unequal educational opportunity along the line of school lo cation operates differently in different stages of student educational career. Although the 8th graders in urban schools are at smaller percentages of going to college than their suburban counterparts, 12th graders in urban schools, however, are at virtually equal perc entages of being enrolled in postsecondary education, and even at higher percent ages of going to private four-year colleges. This suggests that early interventions th at can help student make to the later stage of K-12 schooling could be particularly effec tive strategies in promoting postsecondary educational opportunities for student s in urban schools. Clearly it is important to examine the transition from the 12th g rade to postsecondary education, but it alone may not be adequate to address policy concern s on equal postsecondary opportunity. It is important to track student progr ess through their educational career to promote equal educational opportunity.Finally, this study provides important insights for future research. First, the combination of different conceptual and analytical frameworks w ill help researchers gain a full understanding about student postsecondary opportuni ty. Secondly, multivariate analyses that take into considerations of variables concerni ng student and school characteristics will help unravel the underlying process and factor s related to the unequal educational opportunity for students in different types of scho ols. For instance, the school-location related inequality in educational opportunities mig ht well be the consequences of the level of family poverty in different locales and th e unequal offerings of learning opportunities (e.g., AP courses in high school) in different schools (Adelman, 1999; Hebel, 1999). Geography may also operate as a media ting mechanism by influencing the structure, decisions, and socialization opportuniti es in different communities and schools, which will then shape individual opportunities and educational choices (Coleman, 1988; Gamoran, 1987; McDonough, 1997; Roscigno & Crowley, 2001; Smith, Beaulieu, & Seraphine, 1995). Further exploration in these dire ctions would be able to provide insights for more effective and implementable K-16 connection strategies.NoteAn earlier version of this paper was presented at t he Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New Orlean s, 2002. The author wants to


9 of 13thank anonymous reviewers of EPAA for their helpful comments.ReferencesAdelman, C. (1999). Answers in the toolbox: Academic intensity, attenda nce patterns, and bachelor’s degree attainment Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Kabbani, N. S. (2001). The dropout process in life course perspective: Early risk factors at home and school. Teachers College Record, 103 760-822. Anyon, J. (1997). Ghetto schooling: A political economy of urban educ ational reform New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Burbules, N. C. (1999). Book review on “Understandi ng Equal Educational Opportunity”. Teachers College Record, 100 882-899. Cabrera, A. F., & La Nasa, S. M. (2001). On the pat h to college: Three critical tasks facing America’s disadvantaged. Research in Higher Education, 42 119-149. Choy, S. P., Horn, L. J., Nuez, A., & Chen, X. (20 00). Transition to college: What helps at-risk students and students whose parents did not attend college. In A. F. Cabrera & S. M. La Nasa (Eds.), Understanding the college choice of disadvantaged s tudents (pp. 45-63). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94 S95-S120. DeYoung, A. J. (1987). The status of American rural education research: An integrated review and commentary. Review of Educational Research, 57 123-148. Gamoran, A. (1987). Stratification of high school l earning opportunities. Sociology of Education, 60 135-155. Hannaway, J., & Talbert, J. E. (1993). Bringing con text into effective schools research: Urban-suburban differences. Educational Administration Quarterly, 29 164-186. Hebel, S. (1999, November 26). A.P. courses are new target in struggle over access to college in California Chronicle of Higher Education, A32. Hearn, J. C. (1992). Emerging variations in postsec ondary attendance patterns: An investigation of part-time, delayed, and non-degree enrollment. Research in Higher Education, 33 657-687. Heller, D. (Ed.) (2001). The states and public higher education policy: Affo rdability, access, and accountability Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Hossler, D., & Gallagher, K. S. (1987). Studying st udent college choice: A three-phase model and the implications for policymakers. College and University, 62 207-221. Howe, K. R. (1997). Understanding equal educational opportunity: Social justice,


10 of 13democracy, and schooling New York: Teachers College Press. Huang, G., Salvucci, S., Peng, S., & Owings, J. (19 96). National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS: 88) research framework and iss ues Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Educational Rese arch and Improvement. Maeroff, G. I., Callan, P.M., & Usdan, M. D. (eds.) (2001). The learning connection: New partnerships between schools and colleges New York: Teachers College Press. McDonough, P. (1997). Choosing college: How social class and schools stru cture opportunity Albany, NY: SUNY Press. McPherson, M. S., & Schapiro, M. O. (1991). Keeping colleges affordable Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Educat ion (2001). Measuring up 2000 San Jose, CA: Author. Orfield, G. (1988). Exclusion of the majority: Shri nking college access and public policy in metropolitan Los Angeles. Urban Review, 20 (3), 147-183. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research San Francisco: JosseyBass. Perna, L. W. (2000). Differences in the decision to attend college among African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites. Journal of Higher Education, 71 117-141. Roscigno, V. J., & Crowley, M. L. (2001). Rurality, institutional disadvantage, and achievement/attainment. Rural Sociology, 66 268-293. Rumberger, R. W., & Thomas, S. L. (2000). The distr ibution of dropout and turnover rates among urban and suburban high schools. Sociology of Education, 73 39-67. St. John, E. P., Asker, E., & Hu, S. (2001). The ro le of finances in student choice: A review of theory and research. In M. B. Paulsen & J C. Smart (Eds.), The finance of higher education: Theory, research, policy, and pra ctice (pp. 419-438). New York: Agathon Press, A Division of Algora Publishing. Shouse, R. C. (1998). Restructuring’s impact on stu dent achievement: Contrasts by school urbanicity. Educational Administration Quarterly, 34 677-699. Smith, M. H., Beaulieu, L. J., & Seraphine, A. (199 5). Social capital, place of residence, and college attendance. Rural Sociology, 60 363-380. Stampen, J. O., & Hansen, W. L. (1999). Improving h igher education access and persistence: New direction from a “systems” perspec tive. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21 417-426. Terenzini, P. T., Cabrera, A. F., & Bernal, E. M. ( 2001). Swimming against the tide: The poor in American higher education New York: The College Board.About the Author


11 of 13 Shouping Hu, Ph.D.Assistant Professor of EducationSeton Hall UniversityPhone: 973-275-2324Fax: 973-761-7642Email: Web: Shouping Hu is an Assistant Professor of Higher Edu cation in the Dept. of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy at Seton Hall Un iversity. His current research concentrates on postsecondary equity and college st udent experiences and learning. He has taught graduate-level courses in Higher Educati on Finance, Education Policy Analysis, The American College Student, and Educati onal Research Design at Seton Hall. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Editor: Gene V Glass, Arizona State UniversityProduction Assistant: Chris Murrell, Arizona State University General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Greg Camilli Rutgers University Linda Darling-Hammond Stanford University Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Gustavo E. Fischman California State Univeristy–Los Angeles Richard Garlikov Birmingham, Alabama Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute ofTechnology Patricia Fey Jarvis Seattle, Washington Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College


12 of 13 Les McLean University of Toronto Heinrich Mintrop University of California, Los Angeles Michele Moses Arizona State University Gary Orfield Harvard University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Jay Paredes Scribner University of Missouri Michael Scriven University of Auckland Lorrie A. Shepard University of Colorado, Boulder Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Kevin Welner University of Colorado, Boulder Terrence G. Wiley Arizona State University John Willinsky University of British ColumbiaEPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico)Universidad Autnoma de Puebla Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do Sul-UFRGSlucemb@orion.ufrgs.brJavier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicojaviermr@servidor.unam.mxMarcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicohumberto@servidor.unam.mxAngel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de


13 of 13 DanielSchugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)American Institutes for Resesarch–Brazil(AIRBrasil) Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los