What Does it Mean to “Have the Means”?: Increasing Historically Marginalized Students’ Access to Capital and Academic Success
Joshi, Ela Hemant
A substantive body of literature has documented how students from historically marginalized populations often have less access to human, financial, cultural, and social capital, which leads students to have fewer educational opportunities and lower academic outcomes. There remains a need to understand how specific policies and practices may ameliorate or exacerbate inequities. This three-study dissertation examines how two populations of marginalized students, namely, English Learner (EL) and first-generation college students, access key forms of capital pertaining to their educational outcomes. The first study uses discrete-time survival analysis methods to estimate the relationship between characteristics of ELs’ mainstream reading teachers and ELs’ hazard of reclassification for students in grades 3-8. Using longitudinal data from Tennessee, the study observes significant, positive effects on reclassification for ELs assigned to teachers of color and ELs assigned to highly effective teachers across multiple measures of teacher effectiveness. Studies two and three turn attention to first-generation college students. The second study uses institution fixed effects and a rich set of controls to document differences in first-generation and non-first-generation students’ first-term credit outcomes, including an exploration of differences based on level of parental education. Results substantiate prior findings, namely, that the “amount” of parental capital around college-going that students have access to matters for students’ educational attainment. The third study examines first-generation students’ exposure to the Tennessee Promise, a statewide free-college scholarship and mentoring program, and their first-term college outcomes. I argue that the program may improve students' access to capital around college-going and that first-generation students may especially benefit from this access. Results from interrupted time series models suggest that the initiation of the Tennessee Promise is associated with an increase in first-generation students’ first-term credits attempted and credits earned, and an overall decrease in their first-term GPA. These changes appear concentrated in community colleges. Taken together, findings from these three studies indicate that students from historically marginalized background benefit from greater access to capital, yet continue to experience gaps in access to key forms of capital.