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College on the Margins: Higher Education Professionals’ Perspectives on Campus Basic Needs Insecurity


by Katharine M. Broton, Graham N. S. Miller & Sara Goldrick-Rab - 2020

Background: A substantial share of undergraduates are basic needs insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to essential material goods like food and shelter. These material hardships are associated with poorer academic success, but we know very little about higher education professionals’ perspectives on the matter.

Purpose: This paper examines how higher education professionals perceive, understand, and support college students who experience basic needs insecurity.

Research Design: Using data from interviews with 59 professionals who work at eight broad-access public colleges and universities across five states, we employ an institutional logics perspective to understand how they draw on normative scripts, rationales, and schemas to guide their responses to campus basic needs insecurity.

Findings: Higher education professionals have considerable discretion when working with students who are basic needs insecure, and they draw on organizational, professional, and broader social spheres to guide their interactions. We identify three distinct logics—systemic, quiescent, and cautious—that are unique from one another on two dimensions: locus of control and individual response based on perceived locus of control.

Conclusions: The design and implementation of initiatives designed to support vulnerable students must consider the ways in which on-the-ground professionals understand students, their needs, and the sources of their challenges.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 3, 2020, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23003, Date Accessed: 12/6/2019 1:09:50 PM

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About the Author
  • Katharine Broton
    University of Iowa
    E-mail Author
    KATHARINE BROTON is an assistant professor in the Departments of Educational Policy & Leadership Studies and Sociology (courtesy) at the University of Iowa. Her research broadly focuses on sociology of education, social stratification, and education policy. She uses multiple methods to examine the role of poverty and inequality in higher education as well as policies and programs designed to minimize related disparities and promote college and socioeconomic success. Her recent work includes “Going Without: An Exploration of Food and Housing Insecurity among Undergraduates,” published in Educational Researcher and “Hunger in Higher Education: Experiences and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Wisconsin Undergraduates from Low-income Families,” published in Social Sciences Special Issue on Social Stratification and Inequality in Access to Higher Education.
  • Graham Miller
    Suffolk University
    E-mail Author
    GRAHAM MILLER is the Associate Director of Institutional Research and Assessment at Suffolk University in Boston. His research examines organizations and policy in higher education. Specifically, he explores organizational identity, organizational differentiation, and institutions’ responses to public policy, especially in the context of public comprehensive colleges and universities. His recent work includes, “Merchants of Optimism: Agenda-Setting Organizations and the Framing of Performance-Based Funding for Higher Education,” published in the Journal of Higher Education and “How organizational identity influences behavior at U.S. colleges and universities,” an article forthcoming in The Review of Higher Education.
  • Sara Goldrick-Rab
    Temple University
    E-mail Author
    Sara Goldrick-Rab is Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology at Temple University, and Founder of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in Philadelphia, as well as the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. She is a Carnegie Fellow best known for her innovative research on food and housing insecurity in higher education and her work on making public higher education free. Her latest book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream (University of Chicago, 2016) received the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Education.
 
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