Students’ Perceptions of Campus Climate by Social Class Background

  • Deborah M. Warnock
  • Allison L. Hurst
  • Will Barratt
  • Jocelyn G. Salcedo


In this chapter, Warnock, Hurst, Barratt, and Salcedo use SERU survey data from 12 public research universities to examine the relationship between social class background and student perceptions of campus climate. The authors draw upon theories and literature of social class inequalities in higher education to frame these analyses. They found that students’ social class background is positively, significantly associated with feelings of belonging, safety, and comfort on campus. Students from lower social class backgrounds are more likely to report hostile interpersonal interactions around social class. This study reinforces past work that demonstrates how institutions of higher education can be alienating environments to working-class and low-income students. The authors conclude their chapter with policy suggestions for improving the campus climate for this often marginalized student population.


  1. Aries, E. (2008). Race and class matters at an elite college. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aries, E., & Seider, M. (2005). The interactive relationship between class identity and the college experience: The case of lower income students. Qualitative Sociology, 28(4), 419–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Armstrong, E. A., & Hamilton, L. T. (2015). Paying for the party: How college maintains inequality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barratt, W. (2011). Social class on campus: Theories and manifestations. Sterling, VA: Stylus.Google Scholar
  5. Bathmaker, A.-M., Ingram, N., Abrahams, J., Hoare, A., Waller, R., & Bradley, H. (2016). Higher education, social class and social mobility: The degree generation. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bledstein, B. J. (1978). The culture of professionalism: The middle class and the development of higher education in America. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J.-C. (1990). Reproduction in education, society and culture (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America: Educational reform and the contradiction of economic life. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Dews, C. L. B., & Law, C. L. (Eds.). (1995). This fine place so far from home: Voices of academics from the working class. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Giroux, H. A. (1981). Ideology, culture and the process of schooling. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Hurst, A. L. (2010). The burden of academic success: Loyalists, renegades, and double agents. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  12. Hurst, A. L. (2013). Student types as reflection of class habitus: An application of Bourdieu’s scholastic fallacy. Theory and Research in Education, 11(1), 43–61.Google Scholar
  13. Hurst, A. L., & Nenga, S. K. (2016). Working in class: How our social backgrounds affect our teaching, scholarship, and work in the academy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  14. Hurst, A. L., & Warnock, D. M. (2015). Les miraculés: “The magical image of the permanent miracle”—Constructed narratives of self and mobility from working-class students at an elite college. In E. Lee & C. LaDousa (Eds.), Sharing space, negotiating difference: Contemporary ethnographies of power and marginality on campus (pp. 102–117). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Hurtado, S. (2005). The next generation of diversity and intergroup relations research. Journal of Social Issues, 61(3), 595–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ostrove, J. M. (2003). Belonging and wanting: Meanings of social class background for women’s constructions of their college experiences. Journal of Social Issues, 59(4), 771–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Reardon, S. F. (2013). The widening income achievement gap. Educational Leadership, 70(8), 10–16.Google Scholar
  18. Ryan, J., & Sackrey, C. (1994). Strangers in paradise: Academics from the working class. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  19. Soria, K. M. (2015). Welcoming blue-collar scholars into the ivory tower: Developing class-conscious strategies for student success. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.Google Scholar
  20. Soria, K. M., & Bultmann, M. (2014). Advising scholars from blue collar backgrounds: Supporting working-class students’ success in higher education. NACADA Journal, 34(2), 51–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Soria, K. M., & Stebleton, M. J. (2013). Social capital, academic engagement, and sense of belonging among working-class college students. College Student Affairs Journal, 31(2), 139–153.Google Scholar
  22. Sorokin, P. A. (2015). Social and cultural mobility. In R. Arum, I. R. Beattie, & K. Ford (Eds.), The structure of schooling: Readings in the sociology of education (3rd ed., pp. 84–100). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Stephens, N. M., Markus, H. R., Fryberg, S. A., & Johnson, C. S. (2012). Unseen disadvantage: How American universities focus on independence undermines the academic performance of first-generation college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(6), 1178–1197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stuber, J. M. (2011). Inside the college gates: How class and culture matter in higher education. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  25. Trow, M. (2010). Twentieth-century higher education: Elite to mass to universal. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ueda, R. (2009). Avenues to adulthood; the origins of the high school and social mobility in an American suburb. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Warnock, D. M. (2016). Paradise lost? Patterns and precarity in working-class academic narratives. Journal of Working-Class Studies, 1(1), 28–44.Google Scholar
  28. Warnock, D. M., & Appel, S. (2012). Learning the unwritten rules: Working-class students in graduate school. Innovative Higher Education, 37(4), 307–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Warnock, D. M., & Hurst, A. L. (2016). “The poor kids’ table”: Organizing around an invisible and stigmatized identity in flux. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 9(3), 261–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. White, B. P. (2016, April 19). Beyond a deficit view. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah M. Warnock
    • 1
  • Allison L. Hurst
    • 2
  • Will Barratt
    • 3
  • Jocelyn G. Salcedo
    • 1
  1. 1.Bennington CollegeBenningtonUSA
  2. 2.Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Roi et Rajabhat UniversityTequestaUSA

Personalised recommendations