Why Faculty Underestimate Low-Income Students’ Family Responsibilities

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Elizabeth Pierce


Low-income college students face costly moral choices between pursuing their personal academic success and fulfilling their family responsibilities. They almost certainly face these choices more frequently and at a greater personal cost than many of their faculty recognize. This article explores the sources and nature of that professorial blind spot. This article argues that this moral blind spot results from the fact that middle-class people and low-income people practice family in markedly different ways. They uphold different moral norms (independence vs. mutual aid) which shape the qualitative nature of college students’ obligations within their families. They also tend to utilize different family structures (nuclear vs. complex and extended) which create quantitative differences in the number of people to whom family responsibilities can attach. The paper ends with a practical implications section that discusses ways to address this moral blind spot so instructors can more effectively collaborate with students as they navigate conflicts between family and academic responsibilities.


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Pierce, E. (2023). Why Faculty Underestimate Low-Income Students’ Family Responsibilities. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 23(2). https://doi.org/10.14434/josotl.v23i2.33756
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