Overcoming adversity among low SES: A study of strategies for retention
Written by Ameera Karimshah, Dr Marianne Wyder, Associate Professor Paul Henman, Dwight Tay, Elizabeth Capelin, and Dr Patricia Short
Students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds are underrepresented in higher education (Chapman, 2004; Coates & Kraus, 2005; James, 2007; DEET & NBEET, 1990; DEEWR, 2008). Several higher education reforms in Australia have tried to redress this issue. In 1990, student equity became a national priority alongside the introduction of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme) (HECS). Despite these efforts, however, the proportion of low SES students in higher education remained relatively unchanged (Chapman, 2004; Coates & Kraus, 2005; James, 2007; DEET & NBEET, 1990; DEEWR, 2008). Indeed, as recently as 2008, the Review of Australian Higher Education (The Bradley Review) suggested that a low SES background remained one of the main barriers to accessing higher education and that students from low SES groups were more likely to drop out of university (DEEWR, 2008). In response to the Bradley Review, different funding initiatives were established to enhance the participation of low SES students. Universities now have recruitment and retention strategies aimed at low SES students (DEEWR, 2009). In 2009, the Australian government promised to invest $437 million to improve income support for students from low SES backgrounds (DEEWR, 2009). In addition, the cap on Commonwealth supported places has been removed. It was argued that the capping of university places stems from an elitist view which limits the chances of lower SES students to enter higher education (Bowers-Brown, 2006).