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Type: Public event

New perspectives on college choice: The role of family, gender, and career planning in the education decisions of college ready students from families with low incomes


Dr. Stefanie DeLuca, Elizabeth Burland

Date & time

Feb 16, 2023, 12:00-12:50 pm EST


Postsecondary education plays a vital role in promoting intergenerational mobility in the United States; however, there are large and growing gaps in college attendance, college quality, and college completion rates by family income. As a policy response, colleges and universities have tried to increase economic diversity, and several interventions have been promising. For this project, we conducted semi-structured narrative interviews with over 100 high school students within a randomized, controlled trial (the HAIL Scholarship Study) to understand student decision making, and to explain the mechanisms that make the HAIL Scholarship intervention so successful. In this context, we are able to unpack how some students are able to make the leap to pursuing higher education (despite their financial vulnerability) as one key cost is relaxed (tuition); however, we observe that many students still face different forms of uncertainty that make the postsecondary decision challenging. Beyond the cost of tuition, students consider additional trade-offs informed by their social supports, their career goals and strategies, and non-tuition costs students expect to face. This work helps inform ways in which we can supplement financial aid provision with other kinds of support that best meet student needs.

From the speakers' bios

Stefanie DeLuca is the James Coleman Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at the Johns Hopkins University, director of the Poverty and Inequality Research Lab, and an affiliate of Opportunity Insights at Harvard University. She co-authored Coming of Age in the Other America (with Susan Clampet-Lundquist and Kathryn Edin), which was named an Outstanding Academic Title from the American Library Association, and won the William F. Goode Award from the American Sociological Association. Stefanie has also been awarded a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Fellowship and a William T. Grant Foundation Scholars Award. Her work has been funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Spencer Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Abell Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, National Academy of Education, Gates Foundation and the Department of Education. She contributes frequently to national and local media, including the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, The Economist, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and National Public Radio. She currently serves on a Federal Research Advisory Commission at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and was recently named Scholar of the Year by the National Alliance of Resident Services in Assisted and Affordable Housing. Stefanie has been invited to share her research to support policy recommendations at the federal level at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and has provided briefings and testimony for several state legislatures and in federal court on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Baltimore Thompson v. HUD housing desegregation case. She has presented her work as part of an exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Other awards include the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award, and the 2021 Publicly Engaged Scholar Award from the Community and Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association.

Elizabeth Burland is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy and Sociology at the Ford School of Public Policy at Michigan, and an IES predoctoral fellow at the Education Policy Initiative. She will complete her degree in April 2023. Her research examines educational decision making, economic stratification, and financial aid policy using both quantitative causal inference methods as well as qualitative interview methods. She recently co-authored a publication, forthcoming in the American Economic Review Insights, “The Power of Certainty: Experimental Evidence on the Effective Design of Free Tuition Programs” (with Susan Dynarski, Katherine Michelmore, Stephanie Owen, and Shwetha Raghuraman). Her dissertation work has been funded by the Sarri Family Foundation, Poverty Solutions, and the Robert Kahn Fellowship for the Scientific Study of Social Issues. Elizabeth’s work has been presented at the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Association for Education Finance and Policy, the Sociology of Education Association, and the Population Association of America. In addition to her affiliation with the Education Policy Initiative, Elizabeth is a Fellow with the Stone Center for Inequality Dynamics, and an affiliate of the Poverty and Inequality Research Lab at Johns Hopkins University.

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