Breaking Through the Access Barrier: How Academic Capital Formation Can Improve Policy in Higher Education, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Breaking Through the Access Barrier

How Academic Capital Formation Can Improve Policy in Higher Education, 1st Edition

By Edward P. St. John, Shouping Hu, Amy S. Fisher


296 pages | 10 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2010-10-12
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Breaking Through the Access Barrier argues that the policies designed to address inequalities in college access are failing to address underlying issues of inequality. This book introduces academic capital formation (ACF), a groundbreaking new theory defined by family knowledge of educational options and the opportunities for pursuing them. The authors suggest focusing on intervention programs and public policy to promote improvement in academic preparation, college information, and student aid.

This textbook offers:

  • a new construct–academic capital–that integrates and draws upon existing literature on influencing access to college
  • practical advice for better preparation and intervention
  • real student outcomes, databases, and interviews taken from exemplary intervention programs
  • empirical research illuminating the role of class reproduction in education and how interventions (financial, academic, and networking) can reduce student barriers
  • quantitative and qualitative analysis of the importance and effectiveness of several major policy interventions.

Written for courses on higher education policy and policy analysis, readers will find Breaking Through the Access Barrier offers valuable advice for working within new policy frameworks and reshaping the future of educational opportunities and access for under-represented students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Overall, the book is comprehensive and detailed, providing needed insights into the human aspects of policy implementation, illuminating what interventions mean for students and their families and how deeply inter-related these processes are. This book will certainly be of value for education scholars, sociologists, and others interested in higher education policy.—Teachers College Record

Table of Contents



1. Introduction

Part I. Academic Capital Formation

2. Reframing

3. Family and Community Engagement

4. Academic Preparation

5. College Transitions

6. Engaged Learning

7. College Success and Commitment to Uplift

Part II. Improving Public Policy

8. Academic Capital Formation

9. Informing Public Policy


About the Authors

Edward P. St. John is Algo D. Henderson Collegiate Professor of Higher Education at the University of Michigan.

Shouping Hu is Professor of Higher Education at Florida State University.

Amy S. Fisher is a doctoral candidate at the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, the University of Michigan.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Educational Policy & Reform / General