Sociology ETDs

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This study examines the character and potential changes of transfer intention to attend four-year institutions among community college students in New Mexico. Since the early 1970s, national transfer achievement rates have declined in spite of high transfer aspirations resulting in a widening national transfer aspiration-achievement gap. Given that initial education expectations are often unmet, I study how the variability of students development and maintenance of transfer intentions may partly account for the gap. This project, designed as an inductive descriptive study, pursues one central research question: What does transferring mean to students? This question elicits more inquiry: How does a student's intention to transfer vary due to underlying socio-cultural processes? Within the respective institutional and demographic contexts, what are the most salient processes at the student level? Do these processes differ in nature or outcome when accounting for different intersections of gender, race and ethnicity, or socio-economic status? Using concepts from Multicontext theory and Social and Cultural Capital theories, I evaluate the descriptive and exploratory findings of a local survey-interview study on community college students' transfer intentions. Beginning with insights gained from two social capital indicators and three cultural capital indicators, I found diminishing (and heightening) of transfer intentions associated with these five socio-cultural processes, along with other unexpected processes that emerged during the course of my research. My primary finding is that student transfer intentions behave dynamically, are more fragile and recently-formed than expected, and exhibit outcome patterns linked to social and cultural experiences while at the community college. These experiences, as colored by the students' accounts, feature interactions of identity and student culture, emotional and morale support, differing 'comfort-levels,' and the delicate interplay of financial, family and educational priorities. Finally, I aim to generate theoretical discussion on this relatively under-researched phenomenon—with wide-ranging social mobility implications—which this study shows to be an integral function to narrowing the transfer gap at the individual level.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Fiala, Bob

Second Committee Member

López, Nancy

Third Committee Member

Heredia-Griego, Meriah


Community College Transfer, Two-Year to Four-Year, BA College Aspiration Intention Expectation Achievement, Cultural Capital, Social Capital, Multicontext Theory, Social Mobility



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