American colleges and universities make great promises of economic and social mobility but consistently fail to deliver on them, leaving thousands of low-income, first-generation (LIFG) students in debt and without a degree.

These students, for whom higher education holds the greatest promise of social and economic mobility, deserve better.

Becca S. Bassett earned her Ph.D. in Education at Harvard University in 2022 and completed her dissertation as a Radcliffe Fellow during the 21-22 academic year. Her research combines sociocultural and organizational approaches to explore how American universities can design and implement programmatic, academic, and organizational changes to ensure first-generation, low-income students thrive and succeed at equal rates as their continuing-generation, higher-income peers. Her scholarship has been published in top journals of higher education including The Journal of Higher Education and The Journal of College Student Development. Her dissertation is a comparative ethnography of two universities that serve large numbers of low-income, first-generation students and graduate them at unusually high rates. From 2018-2020, Becca served as an Editor of the Harvard Educational Review and led a Special Issue on Youth Voices in Education Research.  


Bassett, B.S. (under review). “Who We Serve And What We Do:” How University Actors Shape Local Organizational Environments to Support Low-Income, First-Generation College Students.

Bassett, B.S. (2021). Big Enough to Bother Them?: When Low-Income, First-Generation Students Seek Help from Support Programs. The Journal of College Student Development. 62(1), 19-36. Link


Bassett, B.S. & Geron, T. (2020). “Youth Voices in Education Research.” Harvard Educational Review. 90(2), 165-171. Link

Bassett, B.S. (2020). Better Positioned to Teach the Rules than to Change Them: University Actors in Two Low-Income, First-Generation Student Support Programs. The Journal of Higher Education. 91(3), 353-377. Link

Public Writing & Interviews

Creating a Culture of Success-- For All College Students. (Jan 3 2022) The Harvard Gazette. Link

Bassett, B.S. (2021). To Reduce Inequality on College Campuses, Invest in Relationships. Inside Higher Ed. Nov 1. Link


Bassett, B.S. (2021) Review of "A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum" by Jessica Calarco. Harvard Educational Review. 91(1), 138-141.

Bassett, B.S. (2020). Review of "Campus Counter Spaces: Black and Latinx Students' Search for Belonging at Historically White Universities" by Micere Keels. Harvard Educational Review. 90(4), 667-671.

Bassett, B.S. (2019). Review of "The Educated Underclass" by Gary Roth and "The Adjunct Underclass" by Herb Childress. Harvard Educational Review. 89 (4), 695-699.

Book Reviews

Research Projects

Research Projects

A Tale of Two Programs: Part 1

Understanding Two Low-Income, First-Generation Student Support Programs at one Public University

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Journal of Higher Education Vol. 91, Issue 3

Since the mid 1960s, universities have implemented a wide range of support programs to support low-income, first-generation (LIFG) students. Yet, gaps in completion rates between LIFG students and their higher-income, continuing-generation peers have hardly budged. Why is that?


This two-part study takes place at "North University," a regional public institution that is home to two LIFG support programs.

In Part 2, I interviewed 8 first-time program participants three times over the course of their first year to better understand when they turn to the programs for help and how the programs actually help them resolve barriers to success.