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Organized for Urgency


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2013 presentation at the Association for Black Sociologists on findings from my study of admissions at for-profit colleges.

2013 presentation at the Association for Black Sociologists on findings from my study of admissions at for-profit colleges.

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  • Add gender, single parenthood, poverty statistics.
  • Add gender, single parenthood, poverty statistics.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Organized for Urgency: Admissions in the Expanding For-Profit College Sector Tressie McMillan Cottom PhD Student, Sociology #abs2013
    • 2. Rationale #ABS2013 • Expansion of education increases stratification • One in 20 students who attend degree granting institutions attend for-profits, 1 in 10 black students, 1 in 14 Latino students, and 1 in 14 first generation college (NCES 2010) • Sixty-nine percent of black college students are enrolled in community colleges and for-profit colleges (NCES 2010). • Expansion of for-profit sector historically unique: price not pegged to prestige Higher education exists, “at the intersection of multiple institutions…connecting multiple social processes that often are regarded as distinct”(Stevens, Armstrong, Arum 2008)
    • 3. Theory and Literature #ABS2013 • Deming et al (2013): technical demand theories • Chung (2013): human capital theories • Tierney & Iloh (2013): rational choice theories; small, non- representative sample • Tierney and Hentschke (2007): rational choice, functional stratification • Organizational analysis counters challenges of primary data collection among for-profit students i.e. proprietary, expensive This study contributes to literature: • Empirical observation of the for-profit enrollment process drawn from a representative sample • Organizational level analysis linking micro student data to macro expansion of for-profit college sector • Social reproduction theory of for-profit expansion
    • 4. Study Admissions study • Nine institutions, representative of sector in U.S. metro that reflects projected demographics for higher education. • 26 hours of participant observation • 31 student interviews • Content analysis of 121 marketing and corporate training documents #abs2013
    • 5. Findings • The enrollment process at for-profit colleges is organizationally distinct from traditional colleges, from elite to open- enrollment. • That organizational distinctiveness cannot be attributed to institutional differences, but instead to for-profit status. • Social reproduction theories of educational expansion best explain organizational characteristics, corroborated by student and document accounts #ABS2013
    • 6. Organizational Characteristics of Enrollment Process 1.URGENCY • Urgent Marketing • Initial Phone Call: median 18 minutes • Campus Tour: scheduled within a week. • Campus Tour: 1-1.5 hours. Enroll today. • Start first class within 2-4 weeks #ABS2013
    • 7. Organizational Characteristics of Enrollment Process 2. Bureaucratic Simplicity • One point of contact • In-person enrollment • One to three appointments • No document or bureaucratic management @tressiemcphd #SSS2013
    • 8. Organizational Characteristics of Enrollment Process 3. Structural Motivation • Markets value of college before institutional characteristics • Cannot assume middle class status culture • Information sheet and probing for “pain points” @tressiemcphd #SSS2013
    • 9. Organizational Characteristics of Enrollment Process What ISN’T Present • Online applications • Credit Cards • Scores, transcripts • Faculty • Does not assume middle-class status markers #ABS2013
    • 10. Analysis Organizational “Pain Funnel” #ABS2013
    • 11. Analysis Converting an Ephemeral Decision • Three-quarters of students interviewed recount social/economic change priming them to consider a college credential • Only one respondent “shopped” different institutions • For-profits spend 22-25 percent of annual budget on marketing & admissions: they must be present at moment of decision and convert to enrollment. • Urgency serves both profit motive (converting to tuition) and socially constructed student needs. #ABS2013
    • 12. Analysis Credential Insurance • Employed (40 percent) either wanted new work or less precariousness in current role. • Men spoke most often about “moving up” at work or earning more respectable work. • Racial x gender differences by degree level • Marketing, internal documents, and enrollment counselors remark on “security” of degree • Hierarchical differences in “credential insurance” message versus “aspirational” #ABS2013
    • 13. Analysis Credential Insurance #ABS2013
    • 14. Analysis Credential Insurance “I have heard repeatedly from our admissions offices that when they interview prospective students, they’re saying they just lost their job or fear that they might lose their job. Their enrollment is a calculated investment as a hedge against unemployment.” --David Pauldine, DeVry University President. “I just needed a piece of paper that would translate my expertise to employer terms.” -- Student #ABS2013
    • 15. Conclusion and Future Research • Prestige-Price Correlation is disrupted: status competition has never been so expensive for the most socially vulnerable. • Students largely do not feel victimized. • Evidence that expansion of for-profit colleges is not a functional response to technical advancement but credentialism response to status competition and structural change. • Many for-profit students (including 35 percent of my sample) are employed. • Research should explore: credentialism, new corporate work arrangements, decline of internal labor markets? Could also explain gendered and racialized differences in for-profit participation. • Future: • For-profit colleges and poverty • Critical theory-based analysis of expansion: why now? #ABS2013