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Permeability and Transparency in the High School-College Transition (WP-08-07)

Jennifer L. Stephan and James E. Rosenbaum

Dramatic changes have taken place in the "who," "where," and "how" of higher education. Colleges are no longer dominated by traditional undergraduates attending traditional colleges. Now there is great variety in the types of students who attend college, the institutions they attend, and their attendance patterns. This paper proposes a conceptual framework for thinking about how higher education policies shape students' pathways through higher education. The authors present evidence about the operation of American higher education in terms of this framework and then use the framework to consider three policy areas: high school counseling policies, community college policies including open-admissions, and financial aid policies. They argue that while the current policies have increased accessibility and choice in higher education, they also obscure the pathway to completion.

Jennifer L. Stephan, Doctoral Student, Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University

James E. Rosenbaum, Professor of Sociology, Education and Social Policy; and Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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