chapter  5
23 Pages

Beyond “Warming Up” and “Cooling Out”: The Effects of Community College on a Diverse Group of Disadvantaged Young Women


The schooling environment is often hostile to the success of nondominant students. Collective narratives of appropriate development and beliefs about good and bad student qualities serve to marginalize their experiences and categorize them as incapable, non-intellectual, and generally unsuited for higher education. Many poor and minority students develop learner identities and aspirations while embedded in school contexts where learning is associated with busywork; students are described in defi cit terms, and low expectations are widespread (Foley 1990; Oseguera, Conchas, and Mosqueda 2011; Rubin 2007). In these settings, academic success is largely predicated on facility with cultural interactions shaped by race, class, and gender in ways that disadvantage poor and minority students (Bourdieu 1977; Heath 1982; Khan 2011; Lee 1995; Mullen 2011). By comparison, when students are deeply embedded in academic contexts that scaffold and support their experiences and ambitions, schooling can be transformative in a positive sense by expanding students’ capabilities, raising their aspirations, and shifting the conceptions they have of themselves and others (Armstrong and Hamilton 2012; Conchas 2001; Mehan 2012). Research on both secondary and four-year college and university students has shown the many similar ways that these institutions impact both positively and negatively the lives of disadvantaged students. To what extent, if at all, do community colleges differ from these two tiers of American education?