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Fulfilling an institutional and public good mission: A case study of access

Renee F Batman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Access to higher education has been and remains a critical issue, yet research typically focuses on students and programs which may overlook the role of the faculty. Through an in-depth case study, the perspectives of tenured and tenure-track faculty at a predominately White, Midwestern land-grant, research institution are described as they relate to issues of student access to higher education. The context of the case was instrumental in understanding faculty perspectives of access and centered on the fundamental notion of education as public good and its association with institutional history and mission. The findings suggest that faculty members uphold the belief of higher education serving a greater purpose, or public good. Faculty members described the institution's responsibility to the public and the state through their understanding of facilitating accessibility and maintaining affordability. However, faculty participants rarely saw themselves as actors in the issue of access. The faculty held many expectations for students, some of which were reflected in the access literature and models, such as academic preparation and ability to navigate the university. Other expectations are absent in the access literature. Faculty members expect students to demonstrate a certain cultural capital and rewards students who demonstrate these skills, behaviors and knowledge. These expectations are often implicit and hidden from students. These finding suggests that some students or groups of students, especially those that face the biggest barriers to higher education, have the potential to be overlooked without advocacy and faculty buy-in. This study also advances the emerging theory of Academic Capital Formation (St. John et al., 2011) by presenting the faculty's view of access. The findings suggest that Pierre Bourdieu's notion of "field" is critically important to the full understanding of nuances in the access puzzle. Additionally, the foundational concept of social reproduction versus transformation appeared to frame the issues of access found within human, social and cultural capital theories.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Education Policy

Recommended Citation

Batman, Renee F, "Fulfilling an institutional and public good mission: A case study of access" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3557391.