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  • Recognizing and Serving Low-Income Students in Higher Education: An Examination of Institutional Policies, Practices, and Culture ed. by Adrianna Kezar
  • Will Barratt
Recognizing and Serving Low-Income Students in Higher Education: An Examination of Institutional Policies, Practices, and Culture. Adrianna Kezar. (Editor) New York, NY: Routledge, 2011, 266 pages, $45.95 (softcover).

Low-income students are important in higher education, and the structures and programs to support these students requires critical examination. The authors in this edited book use a post-structural analysis as their primary lens to explore campus policies, practices, and cultures designed to help low-income students. The editor of Recognizing and Serving Low-Income Students in Higher Education, Adrianna Kezar, wrote in chapter 1: “Post-structuralism highlights the trend for elites’ interests to be supported by societal and institutional structures and episodic progressive tendencies to support low-income students through novel social and institutional structures such as financial aid” (p. 5).

The authors in Kezar’s work focus on programs designed to help low-income students be successful, unlike Davis’s The First-Genera Hon Student Experience which focuses on the student experience, or Sacks’s Tearing Down the Gates which focuses on the inequities of the admission process. The post-structural examination of programs is a unique and positive feature of this work, since the topic of low-income students is often covered with anecdotal student-centered perceptions.

The authors provide examples of poststructural analyses to demonstrate how policies, practices, and structures in multiple settings, from precollege to graduate programs, impact low-income and other students differentially. While occasionally technical and abstract, the authors successfully make their case that low-income students are affected systematically and differentially than high-income students by the educational system’s structure.

Each chapter stands alone in describing a different programmatic approach to assisting low-income students and together the chapters cover a wide range of programs. The chapters cover material on scholarship programs, bridge programs, financial literacy, minority serving programs, and an array of programs provides the reader with a deep and rich post-structural analysis of programs designed to positively affect low-income students. This wide range of topics is part of the strength and importance of this edited work.

St. John noted in chapter 2 that Indiana’s Twenty-First Scholars program, used here as an example of best practices in a program for low-income students, “fell short of its aims in degree completion” (p. 46), even though it is a widely copied program that appropriately focused state efforts on both precollege preparation and on access to and funding for education for low-income students. This finding of program shortcomings is echoed by Chambers and Deller in chapter 3 in which they wrote that while precollege and college access programs “are important and vital to interrupt the generational cycle of inequality and marginalization” (p. 70), it is the reality that “enrollment and retention gaps persist between lower- and higher-income students” (p. 69).

Financial education programs are analyzed in chapter 4 by Perna, Lundy-Wagner, Yee, Brill, and Tadal, who noted: “Reconstructing institutional aid policies to serve more low-income students has important implications [End Page 93] for institutional financial aid expenditures” (p. 89). In chapter 5 Walpole examined campus structures from financial aid to residential life, concluding that “these structures systematically disadvantage low-income, low-SES students while privileging their higher-income, higher-SES peers” (p. 117). Continuing to explore financial support issues Levin, Montero-Hernandez, Cerven, and Shaker concluded in chapter 7: “Accommodation of public welfare students demands continual efforts to create organizational structures and foster behaviors, both in welfare agencies and community colleges” (p. 154). Kezar and Yang wrote in chapter 10 about the lack of structures and educational opportunities on campus that would help low-income students learn the knowledge and skills of the upper classes, concluding that they “believe that higher education is going to become increasingly accountable for issues of financial education” (p. 212).

Student growth and support programs are covered in chapters 6, 9, 11, and 12. Colyar wrote in chapter 6 about transitional programs and how they include and exclude low-income students,: “Rethinking a...


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