How Social Capital Affects Student’s Decisions about Attending University?
The concept of social capital has gained prominence in the domain of social science. It refers to the potential of people to get benefits and address the challenges by associating in social networks. Past studies have mentioned different types of social capital, including bridging, bonding, and linking social capital. These relationship networks can perform best when they ensure diversity and promote pluralism.
This essay reflects on the various aspects of social capital. The author highlights its role in the decisions of the students regarding attending university. The paper analyses the influence of friends and families on a student’s decision to go to a university.
School and college students do not possess sufficient information to decide on the career choices, areas of interest, and relevant professions. Hence, their career choices may be significantly influenced by the feedback, recommendations, and suggestions they receive from their friends and families. This paper discusses this impact of social capital on university students.
Social Capital Discussion
The core emphasis of social capital is on intangible resources. These resources become an integral component in interpersonal relationships. The concept of social capital in the context of education is highlighted in various forms and dimensions. It is exhibited in the expectations of the parents, obligations and domestic responsibilities, and the social networks of academic institutions, family, and community.
Deepak, Wisner, and Benton (2016) assert that the aspects of social capital and engaged learning are crucial to the academic success of college students when they intend to advance to university level education. A broader understanding of these aspects will improve student outcomes at the level of higher education. Deepak, Wisner, and Benton (2016) categorised social capital into three types of linking, bonding, and bridging. The social capital is considered as linked when the relationships are built with those who are relatively powerful.
The social capital is regarded as bonded when the networks of families and friends are considered in anticipation of providing substantive motivational and emotional support. The social capital is termed as bridged when people from different social networks and backgrounds come forward and create a bridge between diverse social networks. This essay is focused on bonding social capital because it analyses the influence of friends and families on a student’s decision to go to a university.
Access to Resources
The outcomes in academic institutions are also influenced by social capital. For example, if a student belongs to a low-income family, the student will have fewer books and may lose out on educational visits. The student may not have access to the internet at home or access to an internet connection of low bandwidth. Demographic characteristics and the class background are significant predictors of educational ambitions (Behtoui, 2017, p. 487).
Students compare their standards of living and quality of life with that of the affluent people. They feel deprived and depressed and begin to believe that no matter how hard they work, they will never be able to match the academic excellence of higher-income class. This aspect has gained further significance in the current context due to the advancements in technology. Now the access to higher technology, tools, and gadgets make the learning experience far easier compared to the absence of these facilities.
If a student aims to enroll in an online university, all the academic achievements are based on online interactions, high-quality connection, and an enabling environment at home to pursue the studies. Teachers also facilitate students in top streams to acquire knowledge at higher levels.
Hence, the social class of a student is profoundly affected by the amount of wealth possessed by the student. When a student belongs to a low-income family, the student may get primary and secondary education of the same quality as that of other students.
It is because, in many countries, the provision of primary education is free for all and uniformity is also maintained in the curriculum taught in each school. However, when it comes to the institutions of higher education or universities, the class system plays a role in all aspects. There is an unequal allocation of educational benefits due to income, civic, and social engagement (Cincinnato, De Wever, Van Keer, & Valcke, 2016, p. 144).
Higher academic institutions demand expensive tuition fees for enrolling the students, and it creates a class system at this level. People belonging to the lower social classes either give up attending universities or seek financial assistance for meeting their educational expenses.
Convincing Power of Families and Friends
Families and friends have significant influences on the choices of students at this stage. If they are fully convinced with the significance of higher education, they will encourage their children to pursue higher studies by seeking financial assistance or using the financial resources from their savings. Parents will even work harder to enable their children to receive higher education.
Friends can also be good motivators if they realise the significance of higher education. The attainment of higher education is highly likely when new social resources are developed together with enduring mentoring relationships (Ashtiani & Feliciano, 2018, p. 439).
If parents and friends have a long-term orientation, they can convince the students that college-level education will not earn them good jobs with attractive compensation packages when they are competing with university graduates in professional life.
Butler and Muir (2017) describe that the theories of social capital have indicated that students make decisions about their academic endeavours based on complex family connections. Their education narratives are anchored in particular family associations through which they interpret their experience of education.
According to Butler and Muir (2017), social capital is a leading factor in facilitating productive activity. It is because the concept is rooted in social cohesion, trust, and reciprocity. Hence, parents and families should realise that higher levels of social capital are strongly correlated with a good quality of life and wellbeing. The thrust of social capital is on building values derived from social engagement and networking.
Butler and Muir (2017) highlight that social capital is manifested in various forms. In the context of education, the most influencing factor is that of bonding relationships, and if the families and friends do not realise its potential, it may become inherently disabling for the students. On the other hand, its judicious use can become a source of support and assistance in various circumstances.
Scholars have also broadened the role of friends in influencing the career decisions to a broader perspective of community-based education management (Edwards Jr, 2019, p. 18). It refers to the involvement of the whole community at various levels of academic endeavours.
According to Edwards Jr (2019), it means that families and friends should work with principals and teachers on the effectiveness of the curriculum, performance evaluation of teachers, and hiring of quality human resources. Edwards Jr (2019) argues that the administrators of the education system have not been able to attract a large pool of students due to the “absence of a focus on social relations and social capital” (p. 19).
The development initiatives cannot be successful merely on technical interventions without realising the significance of the social contexts in which those initiatives are introduced (Edwards Jr, 2019, p. 19). A focus on social capital will develop capacities for developing solutions to joint problems.
In a capitalist society, the merit-based system becomes a challenge for the people belonging to the lower-income group and lower social status. In this society, the gap always widens between the rich and the poor. The rich become richer, and the poor become poorer. It is because when the people compete on an equal opportunity basis, those belonging to the affluent class always win the race due to the accumulation of vast resources.
A student brought up in elite schools, colleges, and universities will find it a lot easier to beat a candidate on the job who belongs to a lower social class. It is because the student belonging to a lower level never got the same opportunity and facilities to polish and improve the skill set.
Hence, that student would have no choice but to be complacent with a lower level of education and mediocre jobs. According to the findings of Zhang and Lu (2019), depressive symptoms are found higher among students belonging to low family social capital when they cannot attain higher education.
The marginalisation of students belonging to low social capital cannot be overlooked. The anger and frustration may be deviated and ventilated through other channels. All the stakeholders of the educational system will need to play their role to reduce the class system at the level of higher education.
Money is not the solution to this issue because a high cost is associated with higher education, and various universities operate in a country. The problem can only be addressed through the development of social networks and encouraging the students to come out of the vicious circle. It is not an issue limited to the student. The decisions will define the fate of future generations as well.
One of the solutions to this issue could be to ensure free education at the level of universities as well. It will reduce the effect of social capital and students will be able to continue their studies without any worries regarding the financial aspect. However, the governments across the world are even struggling to stay with their promises of free primary and secondary education.
Higher education is an advanced area of study, and the provision of funding to all institutions at the state level will never be possible. Even the philanthropic organisations and foundations either build their universities or fund two or three institutions at maximum.
Job versus Entrepreneurship
Another factor that influences the decision of the student regarding attending university is whether the students would like to become entrepreneurs or they dream an excellent job after the completion of their studies. Many students believe that university education is beneficial only if they want to apply for a job.
Some organisations even announce promotions and benefits when an employed person completes a university education on-the-job. However, when individuals, based on the influence of family and friends, aim to establish their own business, they underestimate the significance of higher education. The individual believes that success in a business is more dependent on the experience and hard work than formal education.
Also, the families encourage the students to become the earning members quickly instead of consuming four to five more years in university education. A robust social factor can promote the students to make active contributions in their domains even as scholars and the research community (Tyndall, Forbes III, Avery, & Powell, 2019, p. 300).
There are severe restrictions on child labour in many countries. These restrictions become effective during primary and secondary education. However, by the time, the student becomes eligible for university education, these regulations also become ineffective. It is because, by that time, the student had reached the age of eighteen years.
The academic institutions of higher education are also part of this social capital, and they also play their role in demotivating students towards higher education. The top-rated institutions are limited in their capacities to accommodate a large population of college graduates.
When students from lower social class do not get admission in these institutions, they prefer not to attend the university instead of compromising on the quality of education. Hence, poverty becomes a barrier to the social capital formation (Harrison, Montgomery, & Jeanty, 2019, p. 183).
The commercial aspects have also dominated many academic institutions, and there is a lesser level of focus on research and development. Universities are premises where the students challenge preconceived notions and bring out something creative and innovative. They contribute to the existing academic literature and fill the gaps in the literature.
However, the mechanical style of many universities is dominated by traditional classroom instructions and students receive the degrees without having a firm grip of the knowledge and skills. Their gaps in knowledge become eminent when they have to execute tasks in a professional environment.
Parents and friends should realise their role in the successful professional life of students. The students cannot be successful in university life if they belong to a lower social class, and parents and friends do not motivate them. A long-term orientation by parents and friends will consider university education as a good investment that will open the doors of a successful career for the students.
The student will also participate in university life with full zeal because the family and friends will support the student. The short-term pursuit of profitability and financial gains should not be preferred over long-term economic resilience (Sabatino, 2019, p. 355). There will be no upliftment and development in the next generation. The growth of the generation is possible only if parents and friends realise the significance of higher education and become the full supporters of students in attending universities.
Fearon, Nachmias, McLaughlin, and Jackson (2018) highlight the role of personal values in the career decidedness of students in higher education. The model presented in the study reflected on how social capital mediates the career decision-making process.
The independent variables in the study included access to resources, student’s social capital, social skills, and personal skills. The study mentioned that ultimately, students are responsible for their career decisions and the role of families and friends is that of a facilitator. They can provide an enabling environment to accept skills development opportunities and nurture personal growth.
Social capital has a leading role in facilitating action and providing potential energy (Tonkaboni, Yousefy, & Keshtiaray, 2013, p. 41). At the levels of social structure, it can be utilised in all ways, including micro, intermediate, and macro level. In this regard, two significant aspects of social capital are networking opportunities and latent resources.
Investing in social networks produces declaration and instrumental actions. From the perspective of declaration action, social capital is beneficial for defending against the possible loss and consolidating resources. From the standpoint of instrumental action, social capital is significant in establishing reputation, power, and wealth (Tonkaboni, Yousefy, & Keshtiaray, 2013, p. 41). Tonkaboni, Yousefy, and Keshtiaray (2013) emphasised that social capital should be evaluated through its three components of social integration, social participation, and social confidence.
The social capital makes a significant influence on the education sector through the influences of families and friends. For the people belonging to higher social class, it is easier to acquire quality education in top universities of the world. However, financial constraints become a barrier for students of lower social level.
If parents and friends encourage students in this phase of life, they can become equally-competent university graduates and become successful in their professional and personal lives. Academic institutions also have the responsibility of realising the significance of social capital.
However, in most of the cases, the students are at the receiving end. Hence, families and friends should take the lead and play a pivotal role in making the students active contributors to development and prosperity in society.
Ashtiani, M. and Feliciano, C., 2018. Access and mobilization: How social capital relates to low-income youth’s postsecondary educational (PSE) attainment. Youth & Society, 50(4), pp.439-461.
Behtoui, A., 2017. Social capital and the educational expectations of young people. European Educational Research Journal, 16(4), pp.487-503.
Butler, R. and Muir, K., 2017. Young people’s education biographies: Family relationships, social capital and belonging. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(3), pp.316-331.
Cincinnato, S., De Wever, B., Van Keer, H. and Valcke, M., 2016. The influence of social background on participation in adult education: Applying the cultural capital framework. Adult Education Quarterly, 66(2), pp.143-168.
Deepak, A.C., Wisner, B.L. and Benton, A.D., 2016. Intersections between technology, engaged learning, and social capital in social work education. Social Work Education, 35(3), pp.310-322.
Edwards Jr, D.B., 2019. Shifting the perspective on community-based management of education: From systems theory to social capital and community empowerment. International Journal of Educational Development, 64(1), pp.17-26.
Fearon, C., Nachmias, S., McLaughlin, H. and Jackson, S., 2018. Personal values, social capital, and higher education student career decidedness: A new ‘protean’-informed model. Studies in Higher Education, 43(2), pp.269-291.
Harrison, J.L., Montgomery, C.A. and Jeanty, P.W., 2019. A spatial, simultaneous model of social capital and poverty. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 78(3), pp.183-192.
Sabatino, M., 2019. Economic resilience and social capital of the Italian region. International Review of Economics & Finance, 61(2), pp.355-367.
Tonkaboni, F., Yousefy, A. and Keshtiaray, N., 2013. Description and recognition of the concept of social capital in higher education system. International Education Studies, 6(9), pp.40-50.
Tyndall, D.E., Forbes III, T.H., Avery, J.J. and Powell, S.B., 2019. Fostering scholarship in doctoral education: Using a social capital framework to support PhD student writing groups. Journal of Professional Nursing, 35(2), pp.300-304.
Zhang, J. and Lu, N., 2019. Community-based cognitive social capital and depressive symptoms among older adults in urban China: The moderating role of family social capital. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 1(2), pp.1-20.
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