Prabhdeep Kehal

Fleeting Access: Racialized and Class Exclusion through Higher Education Enrollment Management

In a time when baccalaureate aspirations are ubiquitous and students from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are enrolling in college at higher rates (Grodsky 2007), institutions of higher education (IHEs) confront strains on their revenue streams. IHEs have attempted to balance their revenue concerns against the pursuit of access for historically excluded students and the pursuit of a competitive academic profile for their institutional prestige. Scholars have studied how institutions’ responses to these declines have affected the types of students they admit and pursue for enrollment, but they have not fully analyzed whether access remains a tenable goal given the increasingly competitive academic profiles among college-going students. Through cross-sectional analyses of enrollment outcomes in 2004 and 2013 along the dimensions of socioeconomic status and racialized background, this paper argues that regardless of academic profile, IHEs are more likely to enroll students from the upper socioeconomic quartile and least likely to enroll Black students. These findings are most pronounced at the most elite institutions, and the relationship reverses when looking at less elite institutions. The findings raise questions about how the current structure of enrollment management can expect to increase access to historically excluded communities while academic profiles continue to be defined along narrow definitions of merit. 


Prabhdeep Kehal is a doctoral student in sociology at Brown University. Their research interests span racial theory, racism, higher education, and organizational theory; their research falls into the tradition of DuBoisian sociology, focusing on how the color line, history, community, and context are critical dimensions for conceptualizing a racialized modernity. Most of their work is concerned with how prestige is constructed within higher education, and how constructs of prestige and merit serve as mechanisms for maintaining racialized inequality in higher education. Through studying higher education, Prabhdeep is interested in understanding how higher education can serve as a mechanism for structuring inequality. An additional area of personal inquiry pertains to anti-Blackness, anti-queerness, and gender conformity within the Sikh and Sikh-American diaspora and how it manifests itself in political and educational advocacy.