Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Labyrinth in the Metropole: A Postcolonial Mixed-Method Study of College Access and Choice
by Dache-Gerbino, Amalia, Ph.D., University of Rochester, 2014, 278; 3621183
Abstract (Summary)

The dominant discourse on African American and Latina/o college access and choice describes general schooling, sociocultural, and historical factors associated with students' likelihood to attend. The essential elements are fairly consistent in the higher education literature. High school grades, standardized test scores, pre-college experiences, family socioeconomic status, federal financial aid policy, state appropriations and residential proximity to college campuses, have all been shown to contribute to postsecondary enrollment (McDonough, 1997; Perna & Thomas, 2008; Tierney & Venegas, 2009; Turley, 2009). Non-dominant discourses of college access and choice for these populations draw on factors of de-facto segregation and the continued presence of racism shaping higher education opportunities for people of color (Minor, 2008; Harper, 2012).

In an effort to challenge the dominant discourse and support non-dominant discourses of college access and choice, I employ a postcolonial geographic (PCG) framework. The use of postcolonialism as a research methodology in higher education is rare due to its focus on the third world and its origins in literary criticism (Barker, 2008). Nevertheless, in this study I aim to show how traditional access and choice factors function as elements of internal colonialism (Tuck & Yang, 2012) and how public transportation is a significant but understudied factor in access and choice for African American and Latina/o residents. Postcolonialism thus forms part of a three-pronged theoretical framework that also includes critical geographic theories and the spatial mismatch approach (Sanchez, Stolz, & Ma, 2003).

The PCG framework orients this study toward a mixed-method research design. The reason is that postcolonialism challenges the dominant discourse, highlighting the value of the subaltern experience—the experience of groups and individuals on the margins of society. The PCG framework allows for both quantitative and qualitative modes of data collection and analysis. A transformative explanatory sequential model (Creswell & Clark, 2011) is used to analyze U.S. Census data, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) data, public transportation data, and bus-riding observational data. The quantitative and geographic data were collected through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS); the bus-riding qualitative data were collected through personal observation.

Geographic differences were found across educational and economic variables, including race, household income, college proximity, and public transportation. The quantitative and geographic data revealed college "deserts" and college "oases" in urban and suburban areas. Race and high-income variables were found to be statistically significant across the postcolonial geographies, whereas low-income variables were not. Qualitative data supported the classification of some urban areas as deserts. Indeed, the suggestion is made that there exists bus-riding apartheid. I argue that the public transit system controls access for racial/ethnic minoritized urban residents. In this respect, it is indeed a "labyrinth."

Consequently, there is an urgent need for urban reform. This could be accomplished through collaboration between communities and educational institutions. Future research should be directed especially toward the deserts—local urban areas with high concentrations of residents who have not earned high school or college degrees. Through college-community partnerships, urban-specific policies and higher education practices could together provide a way out of the labyrinth.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Marquez Kiyama, Judy
Commitee: Kezar, Adrianna, Wall, Andrew F.
School: University of Rochester
Department: Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ethnic studies, Higher education, Urban planning
Keywords: Campus-community partnerships, College choice, Geographic information systems, Postcolonialism, Urban higher education
Publication Number: 3621183
ISBN: 9781303921704