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Wanting Matters: How Expectations Shape the Success of Technical College Students

Project Lead

Sara Goldrick-Rab (BIO)

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Senior Scholar, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison


Using an extensive survey of 1,000 students attending the Madison Area Technical College (MATC), researchers are collecting and analyzing data on student expectations early in the technical college experience and in subsequent years and connecting it to student transcript data. The goals of the project are to

  1. better understand the quality and meaning of technical students aspirations, expectations, and decision-making strategies;
  2. assess changes over time in those measures; and
  3. examine relationships between aspirations, expectations, and decision-making strategies and student transitions.


This study thus promises to contribute a deeper understanding of technical college students’ ambitions, motivations, and outcomes.

Sara Goldrick-Rab is principal investigator for the study, which is partially funded by WISCAPE gift funds. Participating graduate students include Marjorie Cook from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, Suzanne Sublette from the Department of Educational Policy Studies, and James Benson from the Department of Sociology. Undergraduates Briana Norton, Tommy Sharell Hoard, Melissa Smith, and Annie Lien also provided assistance.

Related Papers and Presentations

  • Sublette, S. (2011). Walking through the open door: An examination of low-income students' social ties, social capital and the two-year college choice process (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis.
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