|Abstract or Summary
- In 2011, Governor John Kitzhaber, along with the Oregon legislature, affirmed a clear and ambitious goal for the State. The 40-40-20 goal states that by 2025, 40% of adult Oregonians will have an Associates degree or a meaningful postsecondary certificate, 40% will hold a Bachelors degree or advance degree and 20% percent will hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent credential. These ambitious goals include underserved students –low income, first-generation, students of color, and rural students–whom the educational system has not served well in the past and whose college-going and completion rates fall below the average. However, there is little research about the experiences, expectations or perceptions of underserved students in Oregon’s higher education system. This project used qualitative methods to understand the barriers that underserved students face once they begin their postsecondary career. Twenty-five interviews were conducted with Oregon community leaders who work with “college-going” underserved students and another 21 interviews were conducted with underserved students. Consistent with predictions of social reproduction theory, both community leaders and students described barriers related to cultural and social capital. This research proposes that social reproduction theory can explain how the experiences of underserved students may hinder the effectiveness of policies intended to increase access to and retention in higher education in Oregon. Successful implementation of these policies will need to heavily invest time and funding to educate families and students as they make the transition to higher education in Oregon.