Browsing Educational Leadership, Administration, and Foundations by Author "Huber, Carey Treager"
Social Class Experiences of Working-Class Students: Transitioning out of CollegeHuber, Carey TreagerIssues surrounding social class are often overlooked and rarely discussed in higher education; however, they affect students and institutions in critical ways. Although research has demonstrated that social class is a predictor of access to college, retention, academic performance, overall undergraduate and graduate experience, and college completion, little is known about the effect of social class on students‟ transition out of college and into the workplace. This transition is critical to explore because research suggests that the way in which students approach their first years of work have an impact on future job success and satisfaction. A phenomenological method of inquiry was used to gain a more thorough understanding of the class-based experiences of college graduates who originated from working-class homes as they transitioned from college to the world of work and pursued their chosen professions. Interviews were conducted with 13 recent graduates of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) who were first generation college students, received a federal Pell grant while attending college, and did not return to their hometown of origin after graduation. Findings indicated that participants were conscious of social class although they lacked language to define it. Participants illustrated three distinct transitions that they experienced related to college: transition into college, transition to life after college, and transition to work. Generally participants indicated that the transition into college was more challenging than the transition to work, as they were more aware of their social class and experienced more social class contrast. In general they experienced very few school-to-work transition issues. In terms of the transition to life after college, participants experienced a variety of challenges and obstacles related to physical relocation to a new city, financial management, and loss of a social network. After college, participants generally experienced changing relationships with family and childhood friends due to social class contrast. Finally, several elements of their undergraduate experiences were identified as aiding their transitions out of college including the curriculum, internship experiences, independent living, and supportive relationships with faculty and staff. The study adds to the general understanding of social class issues in higher education, provides direction for universities, and offers specific insight for RHIT into the experiences of their graduates. Based on the findings, recommendations for policy and practice additions and modifications are outlined for RHIT. Opportunities for future research are suggested.