Jennifer Nations

BA: Brigham Young University, Sociology

MS: Brigham Young University, Sociology

Areas of specialization: political sociology, higher education, inequalities

Social scientists have examined the effects of financial aid and tuition policies nationwide but few have looked historically and comparatively at the causes of higher education fiscal policies. Understanding how such policies influence student access and persistence is important, but insight into why states choose some policies over others (i.e., merit based aid versus need-based aid) provides a political economy of higher education finance that enriches our general understanding of the past and future of state support of programs that promote attendance among those who cannot pay. For my dissertation I compare the enactment of higher education fiscal policies in three states (California, Texas, and New York). In particular, I compare how postsecondary institutional ecologies, governance structure, and interest groups influence the enactment of need-based financial aid and tax-exempt tuition savings programs. The state comparisons rely on government policy documents, policy recommendations from higher education institutions and research boards, newspaper reports, and select interviews with higher education and political leaders.

In addition to my dissertation research I am revising a manuscript based on data collected from an ethnographic research study from the Pathways to Postsecondary Success project associated with UC/ACCORD. In this paper I show the salience of gender ideologies in guiding low-income women’s selection of college majors.