Rural First-Generation Students: A Practical Reflection on Urbanormative Ideology

Crain & Newlin / Journal of First-generation Student Success / April 2021

Students Studying Outside

Students from rural backgrounds are underrepresented in higher education, enrolling in and completing college at significantly lower rates than their non-rural peers. This article introduces the theory of urbanormativity, which argues that society operates with an urban-centric mind-set, seeing “urban” as normal and acceptable while “rural” is backward and deviant. Applying this theory to higher education may explain, in part, the disparities between rural/non-rural college success given higher education’s preferences for urbanormative forms of symbolic capital. A fictional interaction between a student and career counselor exemplifies the ways in which rural first-generation students may experience college in comparison to non-rural students. The article concludes with a reflection upon policies and practices which may enhance postsecondary access for rural first-generation students.

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