Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions

Living Edition
| Editors: Pedro Nuno Teixeira (Editor-in-Chief), Jung-Cheol Shin (Editor-in-Chief)

Access to Higher Education: Barriers to Enrollment and Choice

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9553-1_42-1


Access refers to whether a student attends higher education. In other words, it is the question of whether a student is able to enroll in any postsecondary institution. Choice focuses more on the student’s particular selection of an institution. While most students are able to access at least some colleges for attendance, they may not have the opportunity to attend any institution (i.e., choice) due to barriers, such as affordability and academic preparation or achievement level (Long 2007). For example, in the United States, financial aid policy and open admissions standards make public, 2-year colleges accessible to all students, but not all students are able to attend the more expensive and selective 4-year universities. While governments have created policies and programs to bolster college access, there are growing concerns about barriers to choicedue to the fact that there are differences in resources and outcomes for students by institution type (Long and...


College Enrollment Postsecondary Institution Academic Preparation College Access Tuition Price 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Becker, Gary. 1993. Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis with special reference to education. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bettinger, Eric, and Bridget T. Long. 2009. Addressing the needs of under-prepared college students: Does college remediation work? Journal of Human Resources 44 (3): 736–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bettinger, Eric, Bridget T. Long, Philip Oreopoulos, and Lisa Sanbonmatsu. 2012. The role of application assistance and information in college decisions: Results from the H&R block FAFSA experiment. Quarterly Journal of Economics 127 (3): 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bettinger, Eric, Angela Boatman, and Bridget T. Long. 2013. Student supports: Developmental education and other academic programs. In Future of children: Postsecondary education in the U.S., ed. C. Rouse, L. Barrow, and T. Brock, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. Vol. 23(1)Google Scholar
  5. Boatman, Angela. 2012. Evaluating institutional efforts to streamline postsecondary remediation: The causal effects of the Tennessee developmental course redesign initiative on early student academic success. New York, NY: National Center for Postsecondary Research Working Paper.Google Scholar
  6. Boatman, Angela, and Bridget T. Long. Does remediation work for all students? How the effects of postsecondary remedial and developmental courses vary by level of academic preparation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
  7. Calcagno, Juan Carlos, and Bridget T. Long. 2008. The impact of postsecondary remediation using a regression discontinuity design: Addressing endogenous sorting and noncompliance, Working Paper No. 14194. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Castleman, Ben, and Lindsay Page. 2016. Freshman year financial aid nudges: An experiment to increase FAFSA renewal and college persistence. Journal of Human Resources 31 (51): 389–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen, Xianglei, Joanna Wu, and Shayna Tasoff. 2010. Academic preparation for college in the high school senior class of 2003–04. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.Google Scholar
  10. College Board. 2016a. Trends in college pricing. New York: The College Board.Google Scholar
  11. College Board. 2016b. Trend in student financial aid. New York: The College Board.Google Scholar
  12. Deming, David, and Susan Dynarski. 2010. Into college, out of poverty? Policies to increase the postsecondary attainment of the poor. In Targeting investments in children: Fighting poverty when resources are limited, ed. Phil Levine and David Zimmerman. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dynarski, Susan, and Judith Scott-Clayton. 2013. Financial aid policy: Lessons from research. The Future of Children 23 (1): 67–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jencks, Christopher, and Meredith Phillips. 1998. The Black-White test score gap. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  15. Long, Bridget T. 2007. The contributions of economics to the study of college access and success. Teachers College Record 109 (10).Google Scholar
  16. Long, Bridget T. 2010. Making college affordable by improving aid policy. In Issues in science and technology. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Summer.Google Scholar
  17. Long, Bridget T., and Eric Bettinger. 2017. Simplification and incentives: A randomized experiment to increase college savings. Harvard University manuscript.Google Scholar
  18. Long, Bridget T., and Michal Kurlaender. 2009. Do community colleges provide a viable pathway to a baccalaureate degree? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 31 (1): 30–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Martorell, Paco, and Isaac McFarlin. 2011. Help or hindrance? The effects of college remediation on academic and labor market outcomes. The Review of Economics and Statistics 93 (2): 436–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Reeves, Richard, and Dimitrios Halikias. 2017. Race gaps in SAT scores highlight inequality and hinder upward mobility. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  21. Sommo, Colleen, Alexander Mayer, Timothy Rudd, and Dan Cullinan. 2012. Commencement day: Six-year effects of a freshman learning community program at Kingsborough community college. New York: MDRC.Google Scholar
  22. State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). 2016. State higher education finance: FY 2015. Boulder: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.Google Scholar
  23. U.S. Department of Education. 2016. Digest of education statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
  24. Venezia, Andrea, Michael Kirst, and Anthony Antonio. 2003. Betraying the college dream: How disconnected K-12 and postsecondary education systems undermine student aspirations. Stanford: Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research.Google Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Graduate School of EducationCambridgeUSA