McDonough, P. M., & Calderone, S. (2006). The meaning of money: Perceptual differences between college counselors and low-income families about college costs and financial aid. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(12), 1703-1718.

A sociocultural understanding of affordability is essential to understanding the college cost deliberations of low-income African American and Latino students and their families. Habitus shapes and informs college affordability decisions for students and their families. Using interviews with 63 college counselors in urban secondary schools, low-income underrepresented students’ assessments of affordability were framed by a highly individualized assessment of need, an internalized calculation of costs versus benefits, and an acute awareness of the competing demands resulting from financial scarcity. The perceptual differences concerning college affordability are an unintended consequence of differential tastes between middle-income counselors and low-income families.

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