On the frontlines of college access: Navigating the administrative burden of applying to public universities

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University of Washington, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

This study extends administrative burden into new theoretical terrain on two fronts. First, analyzing the effect of high school counselors on the odds of submitting postsecondary applications conceptualizes frontline workers as a potential moderator of administrative burden. Second, by extending administrative burden into the field of education, this study demonstrates the utility of administrative burden’s theoretical framework across public domains. Leveraging administrative data from Washington State within a series of multilevel models, the study finds that a higher level of frontline workers increases application rates in two circumstances. First, higher levels of frontline staff increase the odds of application submission for applications that are disproportionately burdensome, such as the application used by the state’s public flagship university. Second, higher levels of frontline workers are also associated with a higher odds of application submission for low-income and underrepresented minority students who submit applications with minimal levels of administrative burden. These findings, in the context of street level bureaucracy and access to public postsecondary education, make a meaningful contribution to the development of the administrative burden framework.

administrative burdens, guidance in higher education, education, higher--Washington, minority students