Legitimating Prestige through Diversity: How Higher Education Institutions Represent Ethno-Racial Diversity across Levels of Selectivity

Megan M. Holland, Karly Sarita Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Elite higher education institutions work hard to secure diverse classes, and students seek out these institutions in part because they believe that diversity will enhance their own educational experiences. Institutional theories would predict that practices set by the elite institutions in the field would isomorphically trickle down, however, case studies of individual institutions indicate that higher education structures and cultures vary significantly across the spectrum of selectivity. Do all higher education institutions market their ethno-racial diversity to prospective students in the same ways as elite institutions? Are higher education institutions trying to send similar messages about their ethno-racial diversity or does this vary by selectivity level? This paper provides an examination of higher education at the organizational field level in order to answer questions that have previously been at the institutional level. Through analyzing the admissions webpages at 278 universities across the United States, we find that more selective institutions are more likely to represent their diversity, and more likely to engage in practices that emphasize their traditionally under-represented minority student populations than less selective institutions, though it is the less selective institutions that have higher populations of these students. We argue that variations in institutional habitus across selectivity help to explain these differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Higher Education
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

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