Welfare reform, higher education, public assistance, welfare recipients, organizing, political culture


Welfare reform had the unforeseen effect of causing large numbers of public assistance recipients to drop out of college, discouraging their pursuit and acquisition of postsecondary education (PSE) credentials. There is a growing body of research that shows the value of postsecondary education in getting public assistance recipients onto a path toward occupational and social mobility. The restrictions of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families PSE policy, coupled with the recognition that college participation should be an option for qualified welfare recipients, influenced the emergence of many successful state and county-level movements focused on reforming welfare reform PSE policy. Their work provides the few contemporary examples of civil society groups shaping welfare policy through advocacy and organizing. This article summarizes some of the issues and research on welfare and PSE, and chronicles the activities of TANF PSE reform movements in Maine and Kentucky. The case study conceptual framework draws upon Daniel Elazar's (1972; 1994) conception of political culture to provide historical, institutional, political and social context. Through documentation of how reform occurred in different states, the account provided may be useful to people interested in welfare reform and PSE, especially in regard to the lingering uncertainty of what will be the final provisions that constitute the reauthorization of welfare reform.

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