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Stearns, Elizabeth; Potochnick, Stephanie R.; Moller, Stephanie; & Southworth, Stephanie S. (2010). High School Course-Taking and Post-Secondary Institutional Selectivity. Research in Higher Education, 51(4), 366-395.


Race shapes many aspects of students’ high school experiences that are relevant to the college admissions process. We examine the racially-specific effects of high school course of study on college selectivity. Using NELS 1988–1994, we test how race and track interactively predict the prestige of the first post-secondary institution attended. We find support for a “redemptive equity model” of college prestige for Latinos, who attend more selective colleges than White students, net of background and academic variables. Asian American students also attend more selective institutions than White students. Results for African-American students are more complicated, in that the colleges they attend are not significantly different from those of Whites, on average. When we exclude students who attend historically Black colleges and universities, however, African-American students attend significantly more prestigious universities than Whites, net of other factors. We also find racially-specific effects of high school course of study, with Latinos, Asian Americans, and African-Americans appearing to benefit more from taking more rigorous academic courses than Whites.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Research in Higher Education


Stearns, Elizabeth
Potochnick, Stephanie R.
Moller, Stephanie
Southworth, Stephanie S.