Higher education enrollment and degree attainment rates have increased in the U.S. Yet higher education has remained inaccessible to many. Low- and middle-income students and students from particular racial and ethnic backgrounds enroll and attain degrees at lower rates than their peers. To gain insight into the topic of access to higher education, I used social constructionist, critical, and socio-cognitive perspectives to conduct a descriptive, content, and discourse analysis of 1,242 articles about access to higher education published from 1994-2019 in eight influential U.S. newspapers. I also explored the historical and social context in which this coverage was situated. I found that access to higher education was considered an important topic in the articles I analyzed. I also found that while definitions of access to higher education were varied and often intersected, content related to costs and funding of higher education dominated the coverage. In addition, a tension between public and private benefits of access to higher education emerged in the articles I analyzed, as did a tension between public and private costs of access to higher education. These costs and benefits were often misaglined in coverage. The most salient benefit of access to higher education in the majority of articles was a public benefit, which primarily benefits society. However, a private entity or higher education institution was deemed responsible for covering the costs of access to higher education in the majority of articles. This research could be used to promote more nuanced coverage on access to higher education as well as policies, practices, and additional research that addresses the multiplicity of ways in which disparities in access to higher education are created, sustained, and reproduced.
- Private Costs, Public Benefits: An Analysis of 25 Years of Coverage on Access to Higher Education in Influential U.S. Newspapers
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- Doctoral Dissertation Educational Leadership and Policy Studies 2019