Does Your Social Class Really Impact Your Desire to Pursue Higher Education?


Paul Spella

Higher Education Has Its Advantages

My Aunt Becky always stressed the need for my cousins and me to get an education. According to her, it was the only way that we would have better lives. Education was the path out of poverty, yet I wondered why she did not take her own advice. 


When I asked my Aunt Becky about getting her GED, she laughed, “My ship done long sailed!” 


Although my Aunt Becky valued education, the opportunities it provided may have seemed out of reach for her. The same emphasis she stressed to me weren’t reciprocated in her own mindset toward educational attainment. 


Granted, her mentality may have been formed by the passing of time, yet there is a link between social class and educational attainment mentalities. 

Research Opinions Differ

Sociologist Michelle Jackson believes that “inequalities in educational attainment remain a fundamental feature of modern societies” due to students’ class backgrounds.


In her paper entitled “Determined to Succeed,” Jackson looks at how social class impacts students’ decisions to transition into higher education. She links educational inequality to differences in academic performances for those of different social backgrounds. She associates half of the problem with the choices students made depending on their social backgrounds. 


One of her findings revealed that students from more privileged backgrounds were six times more likely to choose higher education after highschool than low-income students. Simply, students from higher-income backgrounds believed that higher education was more necessary. 


On another note, Sociologist Florencia Torche states that “the direct influence of parental resources on the economic position of adult children is much weaker among college graduates than those with less schooling”. 


In other words, college graduates are not getting an upper hand because of their parents’ wealth. Torche’s statement suggests that the educational attainment mentality nurtured in the household is important. Social background is less so when it comes to who will be successful in higher education.   


Torche also discovered that “extended exposure may contribute to the development. . .of lower-background students. . .to detach themselves from their disadvantaged origins.” 


Essentially, the longer lower-income students pursued education, the broader their perspectives evolved from their social backgrounds. They experienced more and thought of themselves in a larger context. 


Overall, social backgrounds can impact the motivation to pursue higher education. Nonetheless, people should direct their focus toward encouraging lower income students to pursue higher education. Nurturing positive educational attainment mentalities for all students once they enter higher education is extremely important.