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When to Begin? Socioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Differences in Financial Planning, Preparing, and Saving for College


by Nicholas Hillman, Melanie J. Gast & Casey George-Jackson — 2015

Background: With college tuition and student loan debt rising, high school students and their families are increasingly concerned about “how to” pay for college. To address this, federal/state policy makers encourage individuals to financially prepare for college early in their child’s life. Drawing from social reproduction theory, we anticipate wide inequalities in who engages in college financial preparations and savings and when they begin these activities.

Purpose: This study updates and extends the literature on how families financially prepare for college.

Data: High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), a nationally representative sample of 9th grade students who began high school in 2009.

Research design: We use logistic and multinomial regression to estimate four different outcomes: (1) whether the family plans to help the student pay for college; (2) whether the family has financially prepared for college; (3) whether the family has opened a college savings account; and (4) when families financially prepare for college (kindergarten, elementary, or secondary school).

Results: Our results have implications for social reproduction theory as we find that socioeconomically privileged families have greater likelihoods of financially preparing their children for college before or soon after their children enter formal schooling.

Conclusions: Current policy efforts to encourage college financial preparation may disproportionately benefit already-privileged families and likely exacerbate educational inequalities.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 117 Number 8, 2015, p. 1-28
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18018, Date Accessed: 12/13/2017 8:16:47 AM

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About the Author
  • Nicholas Hillman
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    E-mail Author
    NICHOLAS HILLMAN is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studies the intersections of higher education finance and policy as they relate to educational access and equity. His most recent publications include “College on Credit: a Multi-level Analysis of Student Loan Default” in Review of Higher Education and “Market-based Education: Does Colorado’s Voucher Model Improve Higher Education Access and Efficiency?” in Research in Higher Education.
  • Melanie Gast
    DePaul University
    E-mail Author
    MELANIE J. GAST is an assistant professor of Sociology at DePaul University. She studies the links between race/ethnicity, social class, and processes related to identity, access, and opportunity in organizational and educational contexts. In particular, her recent work examines how race and social class intersect when African American students and parents approach college support networks. With co-authors, she has published “Real and Imagined Barriers to College Entry: Perceptions of Cost” in Social Science Research and “Importance of Undergraduate Research for Minority Persistence and Achievement in Biology” in The Journal of Higher Education.
  • Casey George-Jackson
    University of Louisville
    E-mail Author
    CASEY GEORGE-JACKSON is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Louisville. Her work centers on issues of educational equity, opportunity, and access to higher education for traditionally underrepresented students. She has recently published “Undergraduate Women’s Persistence in the Sciences” in NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education and “Low Income Students in Engineering: Considering Financial Aid and Differential Tuition” in Journal of Student Financial Aid. “Funding STEM Intervention Programs: The Quest for Legitimacy” is forthcoming in Studies in Higher Education.
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