Date of Thesis



This study focused on the effects of socioeconomic exclusivity indicators on college students¿ attitudes toward a hypothetical private liberal arts university. Students enrolled in two undergraduate courses in Education at an elite private liberal arts university in the northeast were randomly presented with one of three versions of an admissions brochure describing a fictitious university. The three versions of the brochure varied in their portrayals of the institution¿s financial exclusivity, ranging from high exclusivity to low exclusivity. Each student was asked to review the brochure and respond to a questionnaire, containing items pertaining to the overall desirability of the institution, as well as its student culture, academic program, campus traditions, and alumni network. Based on Thorstein Veblen¿s theory of the leisure class and Pierre Bourdieu¿s theory of social reproduction, it was hypothesized that students would judge the institution most favorably in all areas under the high exclusivity condition and least favorably under the low exclusivity condition. It was further hypothesized that differences in students¿ ratings of institutional desirability would be mediated by their own financial aid statuses. Results of a two-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed significant (p < .05) interactive effects of institutional exclusivity and student aid status on the perceived desirability of the academic program and campus traditions of the institution. While recipients of need-based financial aid tended to rate more socioeconomically exclusive institutions more favorably on these two variables, those who were not receiving need-based financial aid tended to rate such institutions less favorably. Implications of the findings for student affairs practice are discussed and recommendations for further research are presented.


Higher Education, College Choice, College Perception, Financial Aid, Social Class, Financial Accessibility, Student Affairs, Admissions, Enrollment Management

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Joe Murray

Second Advisor

Chris Ellis

Third Advisor

Robert Midkiff