Working Class and College

A Box from My Grandfather by Janet Casey                                   Janet Casey

“Even more important is my awareness, late in coming, that the background that seemed so humiliating in those days can be a source of strength and self-respect.  To be sure, I have learned to speak a new language, an educated language that my family does not share or even understand; yet the working-class culture I came from is also a part of me, by far the most formative piece of all.”


Vacuum Cleaner Truth by Sierra Fleenor      Sierra Fleenor

“What I did not realize then was that my childhood games highlighted the socioeconomic class difference between me and my peers.  This did not dawn on me as a child and evaded me up until I entered college.  In fact, I do not think I had ever heard the term “socioeconomic class” before the spring of my first year of undergraduate study.”


I Am Working Class by Michelle M. Tokarczyk        Michelle Tokarczyk

“If I ask myself when I first became aware of class or, specifically, of the class to which I belonged, I realize that I had not one epiphany, by rather several.  The reality of my working-class childhood would crystalize, only to be forgotten (or repressed) again.  I could not hold on to an identity as someone who grew up in the working class until I could talk and write about my experiences from people from working class.”


Hitting the Academic Class Ceiling by K. Stricker

“When I think about the educational institutions I chose to attend, it is clear to me that social class played a significant role in my decisions.  My worldview and understanding of what was possible for me were limited by my family’s expectations and my lack of exposure to life beyond my small town…Lacking the guidance of college-educated parents, I just didn’t understand the importance of academic pedigree.”

Blue-Collar Heart, Ivy League World by Jennifer O’Connor Duffy      jennifer oconnor duffy professional photo for ncu

“As a professor of higher education, I teach classes on social class equity in higher education and advocate for institutions of higher learning to better support the needs of low-income students.  It is validating for me to give conference presentations and talk with my students in my diversity in higher education class about the need for university administrators to see social class as the third leg for diversity trinity, next to race and gender.”


Between Scarcity and Plenty by Camisha Jones        Camisha Jones

“Because of my family background, I am aware that when I make a statement like “I’m broke,” it doesn’t mean the same as when someone who is impoverished says it.  Even when I have periodic anxieties about my money management skills, I am reassured by the fact that I have good credit, credit cards, money in my savings account, and a monthly income that covers my bills with room to spare.”


A Nuyorican’s Journey to Higher Education Toward Meritocracy or Internalized Classism? by Jim Bonilla      

“While I can be eloquent on how higher education continues to exclude folks of color, I rarely focused on how the academy (and Jim Bonilla photo my role in it) mirrors America’s larger class divide.  In less than two minutes, this young, white, working-class woman had uncomfortably reminded me that many of the same invisible barriers that confront studentsof color in the ivory tower also persist for today’s white, low-income, and working-class students.”




My Parents’ Hands Are on My Back by Christine Overall           

“A common stereotype about working-class people is that, unlike middle-class people, they do not value higher education.  And there is some truth to the stereotype.  Working-class people know they need to take care of themselves: education should be practical and pragmatic; it should be aimed toward getting a job and making a steady income.”