About the Author

Working-Class Students are Left Out at University

In a recent review, I looked at 35 studies of undergraduate students in higher education. Using a meta-analytic approach, I found that there was a significant positive relation between students’ social class (socioeconomic status) and the degree of social integration that they experience at their universities and colleges: The higher students’ social class, the more likely they were to participate in formal social activities such as campus-based clubs, societies, and organizations. Higher social class was also positively related to participation in informal social activities such as the number of friends on campus, dates, parties, and nonclassroom conversations. Finally, social class was positively related to students’ sense of belonging to their higher education institutions.

 

This research indicates that working-class students have a greater risk of being excluded from social life at universities. This is an important problem because social integration predicts students’ academic development, outcomes, and retention, and working-class students tend to be disadvantaged in these areas. Consequently, an important method of improving working-class students’ academic outcomes may be to integrate them more into their universities and colleges. In my review, I suggest several potential explanations for social class differences in social integration that may provide pathways for improvements in the social inclusion of working-class students.