Examining the Achievement Gap between College Readiness Access in Underrepresented Communities and the Pipeline to College

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The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the past experiences of underrepresented students who participated in the College Now program, a college readiness program sponsored by the City University of New York (CUNY). More specifically, the study investigated how the College Now program prepared students academically and socially to matriculate into a CUNY senior college. Moreover, the study focused on participants from only five of the CUNY Senior Colleges. Baruch College, Brooklyn College, Lehman College, Medgar Evers College, and York College. This research includes a review of existing literature on college preparation programs and an explanation of how these programs especially influence disadvantaged and minority students during their pathway to college. There were two theoretical frameworks utilized in this research study. The first was Bourdieu’s theory on Social Capital and Cultural Capital. His theory seemed fitting for this study, which focused on college readiness access in underrepresented communities. Participants' pathways to college were determined by their access to social and cultural capital because many of them were first-generation college students. The second theory used was Vincent Tinto’s Theory on Student Retention and Success. His approach worked well for this study because there was a primary focus on the importance of college readiness preparedness as a guiding force to prevent post-secondary retention. The following questions guided the discussion for this research study: What is the gap in college readiness post-secondary to post-secondary education? To what extent is there an alliance between high school counselors and college admissions offices? How did College Now benefit your high school experiences? The research study identified three significant findings as contributing factors to college readiness access in underrepresented communities and the pathway to college related to their participation in the College Now program, which included college course preparation, social or self-efficacy, and academic advancement. The first finding included college course preparation. Many participants felt that the College Now program provided early exposure to college course preparation, which made matriculating into a college course post-high school seamless. The second finding included social or self-efficacy. Some participants gave credit to their guidance counselor and early college professor for giving them the social capital and belief that they could succeed in college following their participation in the College Now program. The third finding included academic advancement. Many participants felt like an enormous benefit of the College Now program was access to academic advancement. Their pathway to college could not have been successful if it were not for their participation in the College Now program.

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