2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Commercialized Higher Education Quality: A Pathway to Reproducing Inequality

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Student Presentation

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Dr. Arthur Scarritt


Higher education and the ways students engage with it has been reduced as transactionary, evolving out of an environment more stratified by race and class. My research has been framed to look at how meritocracy has fueled student’s understanding of race and elitism to get them to consent to increasingly high cost commercialized education. This creates the issue necessary for investigation: students' increasingly transactional belief in higher education, buying a degree, makes them believe that the more they pay, the better off they are. In conducting interviews with university students, I aimed to measure their perceptions on deservingness, upward mobility, and limited learning. I have thus discovered that students believe their consumer power (Tomlinson 2017) can allow them to purchase a credential reflective of a new status, while disavowing this reductionist equation for their peers. What also has been evident in students is a sense of racial negligence. This has provided for broader implications for how neoliberalism has transformed the objective of seeking a college education from cultural knowledge to privileged power. Students inadvertently report that the individualized circumstances of their school has left them struggling to reach more accountability from the institution and its pedagogy which leaves questions of ecological responsibility.

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