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ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY BY WILLIAM MOLNAR Ph.D: GENERAL Bloom J. (2007) (Mis)reading social class in the journey towards college: youth development in urban America. Teachers College Record 109 (2), 343-368. Retrieved April 29, 2008 from Education Research Complete database. Summary Bloom brings to light the cost of living to students who live in projects and section 8 housing having them find out that they cannot assume average cost of living in the “real world”. She claims that graduating seniors from high school have been molded by the way social class has shaped the students’ experiences and choices. Bloom asks numerous questions that are probably haunting the minds of these graduating seniors. She explores student movement from high school to higher education based at three different high schools in New York City. Bloom wants to challenge some of the constructs that have been used to explain the often less-than-positive outcomes of these transitions for low-income students and to question the portrayal of poor and working class students’ decision making processes at this juncture (pg. 346). She feels that the motivation of these minority students is misread by both academics and educators. Bloom states that there are no guarantees in life, with or without a college diploma. Students that choose not to go to college find that their life choices become very limited. Bloom discusses the research of Schneider and Stevenson (1999) who concluded that young people’s educational paths are the result of “misaligned ambitions” (Pg. 347). In addition, Bloom discusses the
studies of Weis (1990) who study working class students in upstate New York and concludes that
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these students’ relationship with schooling is a contradictory relationship that is more exaggerated among poor blacks. Bloom conducted a research study from 2002-2004 following a group of high-school seniors. The time of transition from high school to the real world is underexplored in literature on secondary schools and higher education but it was like a crucial one and helped in understanding why high school students do or don’t go to college. The article focuses on research in various high school situations ranging from college-bound students to schools where 80% of students qualify for free lunch and over 90% are African American and Latino. All these schools represent tremendous success in moving poor and working-class urban youth of color towards college. Bloom found through her studies that, while observing students grapple with the microeconomics of day-to-day survival, most of the costs of college are almost non-existent to middle class students because they don’t live on a tight budget, but for the poor students, all financial responsibilities related to attending school such as books, food, and transportation is a major task for them. Another issue Bloom identifies as a problem with the poor is the rising costs of college and trends in family income which hit the poor the hardest. Low income students are much more sensitive to tuition increases than middle and upper-income students. According to Bloom's statistics, a public institution represented nearly 60% of the low income family in 2001, but the same bill represented only 5% of their income. Many low income students rely on loans for higher education but are a much greater risk for the poor and working-class students. Research has shown that students educated in inner-city schools are more likely to be underprepared for
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college thus placing them at a higher risk of dropping out or needing to take remedial classes in college which in turn increases loan costs. In this article, Bloom tries to connect with the reader and supports that even if these students do succeed in finishing college, it is unclear if their earnings after college will justify the money they must borrow. According to recent data research, African Americans and Latinos earn less than their white counterparts even though they hold equivalent degrees. But the debt owed by these three races are the same, so having African Americans and Latinos to pay back education loans are a lot more difficult. With college costs rising and family income falling, the financial aid available to low-income students has been diminishing over the past thirty years. The poor and working class students are aware of the economic landscape surrounding them better than their middle-class teachers and college counselors. The low income student has to rely on a shift from grants to loans and the increasing use by states pouring out merit-based scholarships rather than need-based ones and the creation of tax credits all come at the expense of financial help for low-income students. These financial conditions in higher education have had different effects across the various social classes. Low-income students must borrow more than higher-income students meaning they pay more for the same education as the higher-income students. In addition, loans for higher education are at a major risk for the poor and working-class students. Research has shown that students educated in inner-city schools are more likely to be underprepared for college thus putting them at a higher risk of dropping out. This leaves the student in a worse position due to leaving college with no degree, no skills, and a debt to repay. Even if these students do finish college, there is no certainty that their earnings will justify the
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money they had to borrow to complete college. Mortens, 1990a; and Mumpers, 1996 proved that students from low-income backgrounds earn less post-college than higher-income backgrounds. African Americans and Latinos earn less than their white counterparts even though they hold the same degree. Bloom states that the minority student is not going to start off from the top and they are going to have loans to pay. Along with financial risks these students must take, they must also face social and psychological factors as well. They must take the chance that they will be rejected by the world they hope to enter. They must accept the weight of their own, their family’s and their community and hope to move out of poverty into an unfamiliar middle-class society. The low-income student also lacks easy access to information about higher-education because many middle-class students are constantly surrounded with information from parent’s conversation, and family and friends who graduated before them as part of everyday conversation. Low income students are trying to confront psychological fears and doubts in making the shift from low-economic status to college level understanding. Taking a step into a different world of society can be a scary experience, especially if one doesn’t know the rules. The student’s self-esteem is on the line in ways that are different from the white middle-class society. Research has shown that the poor and working-class parents cites their desire for their children to go to college and this carries an extra weight for children because they are expected to achieve in something their parents could not. The desire to go to college has two different viewpoints. To the low-income student, it meant an escape from a depressingly familiar world of low-wage work, violence, and poverty. One student stated she would kill herself if she didn’t get out of the city. Many poor and working-class parents worry about sending their children to an unknown environment. Middle-
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class parents have an idea of what lies ahead for their children and encourage them to continue with their education. Finally, the poor and working class students confront a very different reality than middle-class students do. Low income students face much greater financial hurdles when choosing to attend college. For most, it is a risk that appears too great. In order for the minority to move to higher education they must face great social and psychological risks. They have to put their self-esteem on the line and take a chance of being rejected. In conclusion, leaving high school and deciding where to go next is a very important step and stressful time in the life of the youngster. They must draw a line between dreams and fantasies with reality. They must face leaving their normal routine of the K-12 education, even their homes and communities as well. The risks that take place in transitioning to college are different depending on students’ social class, the lived experience of social class-on financial, social, and psychological levels-shapes students’ perceptions, experiences and decision-making processes in ways both conscious and unconscious as they travel through their senior year of high school (pg. 363). For most students the question is where they are going to college, not if they are going. For the poor students, they face a different reality. These students see the world around them and correctly perceive the ifs as risks that they must take in order to reach for the social mobility that a college education promises. If we want to understand the realities of the poor student, and find ways to help them get to the college level, we need to be familiar with the role of the social class we inhabit.
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