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Skipping Class: Systematically Neglecting The Working class In Higher Education by Jacqulyn Gabriel


Although scholars have documented differences between social classes in terms of higher education attendance and attainment, very few have addressed working-class students’ experience in higher education (Walpole 2003).

There is mounting evidence suggesting these students experience alienation, marginalization, and isolation in higher education. Working-class college students also report greater feelings of inadequacy, intimidation, exclusion, and inferiority than their middle-class peers (Soria and Bultmann 2014).

These experiences and feelings are often attributed to the difficulties of navigating a culture that differs markedly from that of their working-class background. Without discounting the cultural barriers working-class students encounter in higher education, it is important to consider the institutional obstacles affecting these students.

Colleges that profess to be committed to making their campuses more inclusive to students from diverse backgrounds largely neglect social class issues in their diversity and inclusivity conversations and initiatives. For instance, while most colleges track the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of their student body, they omit collecting data related social class.

Another problem working-class students encounter in higher education is their academic advisors failing to acknowledge and attend to issues, concerns, and needs common to their social class. For example, my institution pushes a “15 in 4 Campaign” in which advisors are instructed to persuade their advisees to take fifteen credit hours each semester, regardless of student’s personal situation and/or circumstances, in order for them to graduate on track.

Campaigns such these neglect the fact that many working-class students cannot afford to take fifteen credit hours per semester, and assume the students’ only responsibility and/or concern is attending college. These are just a couple of the many examples of classism on college campuses that I would like to address in my presentation.

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Ragged University is in partnership with the Working Class Academics conference sharing its ideals and love of open intellectual spaces

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