Promoting Inclusion and Identity Safety to Support College Success

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The Century Foundation


As the accounts from Michelle Obama and Sonia Sotomayor poignantly illustrate, going to college can often be an ambivalent experience for low-income, first-generation, and racial and ethnic minority students. Drawing on empirical evidence, this paper reviews some of the obstacles and barriers to college success for students from low-income and minority backgrounds and describes what institutions and faculty can do to create an environment of identity safety—where all students are valued, included, and can perform to their highest potential. The authors review this work through a social psychological framework, which examines the student in context—focusing on the ways that cultural stereotypes, social identity, and the cultural and institutional structures of college shape students’ motivation, identity, and academic success.



Low-income students, first-generation college students, ethnic minorities, minority students, college completion, academic achievement