AEFP 45th Annual Conference

Toward a Meaningful Impact through Research, Policy & Practice

March 19-21, 2020

Heterogeneity of Socioeconomic Status on College Enrollment for English Language Learners

Justin Siekannye Kumbal, University of Missouri -Columbia,

Heterogeneity of Socioeconomic Status on College Enrollment for English Language Learners
English language learners (ELLs) are the fastest-growing population in the United States public schools (Flores & Drake, 2014). These are students with a native language other than English, or who have a dominant language that may have affected their English language proficiency (Linquanti & Cook, 2013). In 2000, 3.8 million of the 47.2 million K-12 public school students were identified as English learners (NCES, 2019). By 2015, the population of English learners had grown to 4.9 million of the 50.4 million K-12 public school students (NCES, 2019).
States are required to identify English learners and provide appropriate assistance to ensure that these students attain English proficiency (Hakuta & Pompa, 2017). Generally, English learners have poor academic achievement (Callahan, 2005; Fry, 2008; Samson & Collins, 2012) which could result from a lack of linguistic skills. However, poor achievement can also be attributed to factors such as attending schools high student enrollment or high student-teacher ratios, or poverty (Fry, 2008). English language learners require special attention, particularly because of their growing numbers and low-performance relative to their non-ELL peers (Samson & Collins, 2012).
For all students, adequate academic preparation and financial resources are necessary for college attendance (Perna, 2006). Students who are academically qualified for college may still face barriers to college enrollment in terms of insufficient financial aid (Bettinger, 2015; Kim, 2012), and poor understanding of admission and financial aid application processes (Hahn & Price, 2008). English learners face additional challenges in combining academic work and culture (Calderón, Slavin, & Sánchez, 2011; Goldenberg, 2013).
Even though there is a gap in academic achievement between ELLs and non-ELLs, there are fewer studies exploring the postsecondary education outcomes of ELLs. Kanno and Cromley (2013) examined English learners' access to and degree attainment using the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 and found that one in eight English learners earned a bachelor’s degree. Kanno and Cromley (2013) also found nonlinguistic factors such as parental support and academic under preparation to be strong predictors of college access for ELLs. In order to determine the stages in the college planning process that presented challenges to ELLs, Kanno and Cromley’s (2015) study examined the pathway to four-year colleges for ELLs. The authors classified five stages in the college planning process as aspiring to college, acquiring college qualification, graduating from high school, college application, and college enrollment. By comparing the college access patterns of English language learners, English proficient minority students, and native English speakers, the authors found that the early college planning stages, that is, college aspiration and acquisition of college qualification were the most challenging stages for ELLs. The challenges that ELLs face in aspiring and acquiring college qualifications could also explain their designation as needing college remediation (Flores & Drake, 2014).
Again, there is evidence that socioeconomic status (SES) is a source of postsecondary enrollment gap, and programs such as GEAR UP have enhanced enrollment among low-income students (e.g. Bowman et al., 2018). Yet these studies have not examined the socioeconomic heterogeneity of postsecondary enrollment for ELLs and non-ELLs. English learners from higher SES may have different academic experiences.
In this study, I compare postsecondary enrollment between English learners and non-English learners within the same socioeconomic status. I adopt logistic regression analysis and propensity score matching using the Educational Longitudinal Survey of 2002 dataset (ELS:2002). This is a nationally representative longitudinal study of 10th graders in 2002 and provides trend data about critical transitions experienced by students through high school and into postsecondary education or workforce. This study will contribute to the literature on the nonlinguistic factors that impact English learners’ postsecondary enrollment.
Preliminary findings show that overall English learners have a lower postsecondary enrollment. When postsecondary enrollment is conditioned on the same socioeconomic status, the results vary by low- and high-SES. For students from low-SES, English learners have a significantly lower probability of being enrolled in higher education compared to non-English learners. Oppositely, English learners are more likely to pursue higher education compared to non-English learners when they are high socioeconomic status. The findings of this study may help policymakers to redesign nonlinguistic policies that target English learners who face additional challenges that negatively impact their postsecondary education.
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Interesting poster! What do you think it might be driving the results for high SES ELLs?

Thanks for sharing your work! I am a little confused on how the main ELL variable is created (the poster lists 3 different variables are used to create the variable). Depending on that, I think it could be interesting to think about if there are any other covariates in ELS that the literature would suggest predicts the likelihood of a student being an ELL. This would allow you to create a more robust model to create the propensity score estimates. It would also be interesting to see if enrollment in certain sectors of higher education (e.g., public two-year, public four-year) has the same relationship as overall enrollment. Thanks again and let me know if I can be of help in the future!

Thanks for an interesting poster. Why do you think the matching results are significant for high- but not low- or medium- SES students?

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