Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

David Cotter




students, college, high, attainment, social


In an age when higher education has become increasingly channeled as a means of gaining access to an information-driven economy, it is important to note who does and does not enroll in postsecondary courses. The American ‘achievement’ ideology touts education as an opportunity equalizer, and attributes lack of achievement in this system to individual failing. An extensive body of literature, however, points to systemic barriers which create a gap in achievement, primarily along the social fault lines of early development and family characteristics, peers and community, school environment and locational setting, and the demographic factors of race, socioeconomic class and gender. Guided by an interest in the influence of the United States education system on high school student’s postsecondary educational aspirations and expectations, this thesis assesses the degree to which school “intervention” policies are successful in mitigating structural barriers faced by marginalized student populations. Utilizing data from the High School Longitudinal Study (2009), this quantitative analysis seeks to ascertain the effects of education plans, availability of assistance in financial aid awareness, and academic opportunity programs on student’s academic trajectory. Binary logistic regressions show that these school intervention tactics do not effectively improve student’s likelihood of attending college. In fact, attending schools that provide assistance in financial aid awareness decrease a student’s likelihood of attending college, while attending schools which had with opportunity programs only modestly increased enrollment likelihood and education plan requirements did not significantly affect outcomes. These conclusions suggest a need for revised education policies, and further exploration of alternative approaches to bridging the structural barriers responsible for gaps in educational aspirations and ultimate achievement.