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Research Briefs


July 2013 

The Impact of Punitive High School Discipline Policies on the Postsecondary Trajectories of Young Men

Veronica Terriquez, Robert Chlala, and Jeff Sacha
University of Southern California

This report draws attention to the lasting effects of expulsion and suspension on college pathways for young men. It offers recommendations that aim to improve discipline policies and contribute to student achievement.





HS Conditions-Oseguera cover

July 2013 | No. 7

Importance of High School Conditions for College Access

Leticia Oseguera
Pennsylvania State University

Students from low-income backgrounds are less likely than their peers to enroll in and complete college, thus limiting their employment prospects in a job market that demands increasingly higher skill levels. Often, reform efforts designed to address this problem focus on individual factors such as academic performance or parental education level. But an over-emphasis on student characteristics at the expense of attention to school culture and climate undermines a more complete understanding of student achievement. By exploring high school institutional factors—including academic curriculum, teacher qualifications, and school commitment to college access—we can explain the variation in the postsecondary pathways of students from low-income backgrounds more fully than if we focus only on family or “cultural” factors. If we overlook what is going on within schools, we may limit the potential impact of current policy initiatives on the academic success of low-income students. A focus on strengthening schools is a more proactive approach to ensuring student success.

This research brief builds on the earlier descriptive analysis to inform future empirical work on the specific school conditions that correlate with high levels of college enrollment. Specifically, it examines a set of school-level factors that help explain the striking divergences.

Related research: High school coursework and postsecondary education trajectories: Disparities between youth who grow up in and out of poverty




September 2012 | No. 6

Mentorship and the Postsecondary Educational Attainment of Low-Income Youth

Mariam Ashtiani and Cynthia Feliciano
University of California, Irvine

Mentors, who can serve as role models or spark a sense of possibility for the future, offer one important avenue for low-income youth to gain access to important information and tools necessary for academic success. This brief underscores the important role that mentors can play in helping these students enroll in and complete college, and reveals that not all types of mentorship are equally effective for all students.



September 2012 | No. 5

Unequal Experiences and Outcomes for Black and Latino Males in California's Public Education System

John Rogers and Rhoda Freelon
University of California, Los Angeles

Numerous studies have documented that black males enrolled in school often lag behind their peers academically, have less access to rigorous coursework, experience racial bias from school personnel because of lower expectations for boys of color, and are more likely to drop out. Although it would be reasonable to expect that Latino males face similar challenges, there are few comparable studies that reveal their experiences. Given the new demographic realities facing the nation—and facing California in particular—it is important to gain a better understanding of how both groups fare in the state’s public K–12 and postsecondary education system. This brief highlights the experiences of young men of color as they travel through K–12 schools and, in some cases, into higher education. It draws attention to the various factors that can impede this journey and to some of the ways that schools can facilitate student success.


TerriquezRB-profile coverJuly 2012 | No. 4

Educational and Employment Profile of California Youth

Veronica Terriquez
University of Southern California

This brief highlights the postsecondary educational and employment experiences of the state's 18- to 26-year-olds. Focusing on young people who are out of high school provides us with insights into their future trajectories, and can thus inform the state's education, economic and social policies. The figures presented in this brief draw on data from the 2009 and 2010 American Community Survey (ACS), and the research presented here examines the experiences of young adults from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. It also separates college-age youth (18-22) from early career youth (23-26) because they are likely to show distinct patterns in their postsecondary enrollment and labor market participation.


Park-Watford RB coverMarch 2012 | No. 3

Peer-Reviewed Research on Low-Income Students in Postsecondary Education:
Trends and Future Directions

Vicki Park and Tara Watford
University of California, San Diego
University of California, Los Angeles

Questions of how colleges and universities can better support low-income youth are increasingly at the forefront of research and educational reform agendas. Researchers need to assess not only what is known about low-income college students but also where the information gaps lie. Currently, researchers know that low-income students tend to enter and complete college in much smaller numbers than their middle- and high-income peers and earn far fewer postsecondary degrees by the age of 26. Low-income students are also more likely to attend under-resourced, overburdened community colleges. But apart from these types of descriptive statistics, what research is being conducted on low-income college students and how does the higher education field prioritize this research? This brief examines several broad research trends that occur in five key peer-reviewed higher education journals over a 20-year period (1989–2008), in particular: How many articles were published that examine low-income youth in the context of postsecondary education? Were the data collected and analyzed via quantitative, qualitative or mixed-methods approaches? In what types of colleges and universities have low-income youth predominantly been studied?


Oseguera RB coverJanuary 2012 | No. 2

High School Coursework and Postsecondary Education Trajectories:
Disparities between Youth Who Grow Up In and Out of Poverty

Leticia Oseguera
Pennsylvania State University

Project: National Analysis

One of the most direct ways schools can positively affect students’ college going trajectories is to ensure access to a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. This brief draws on a study of a national cohort of students to explore how socioeconomic status and high school coursework intersect to influence educational pathways. A deeper understanding of how academic course-taking in high school affects post-secondary education outcomes can help guide policy aimed at identifying and closing gaps in the college access pipeline. In particular, a more nuanced portrait of how these factors come into play for students in poverty and for their more affluent counterparts will allow for informed policy and research recommendations that can improve educational outcomes for all students.


Ashtiani-Feliciano RB coverJanuary 2012 | No. 1

Low-Income Young Adults Continue to Face Barriers to College Entry and Degree Completion

Mariam Ashtiani and Cynthia Feliciano
University of California, Irvine

Project: National Analysis

All students deserve access to a full range of postsecondary options, and the current economic climate and competitive job market have made obtaining a four-year degree more important than ever. But there are persistent inequities when we look at the college attendance and completion rates of students across socioeconomic groups. We know that growing up in poverty is associated with conditions and obstacles that can affect later educational attainment—lowered expecations, limited access to rigorous high school curricula, negative relationships with school personnel, limited access to resources and more. As a result, fewer students who grow up in poverty graduate from four-year colleges. This research brief draws on a longitudinal study of American youth to explore the relative impact of these two separate but highly interrelated issues—access and attainment—on students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

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