Ph.D. in Education, 2012
School of Education
September 1, 2008
Moving Students from High School to College is at the Top of Erik Ruzek’s Agenda
How to move more low-income, first generation, and minority students from high school to college is the issue that Erik Ruzek is focusing on in his graduate studies. After working as an admissions counselor at UC Riverside and Cal State East Bay, Erik recognized that there were significant numbers of students in high schools who were not making the transition to college. Or, if these educationally underserved students were going to college, it was often at a community college where, unless they had good guidance and support, they often “got stuck”. This recognition was accompanied by a desire to understand and aid in efforts toward solving the problem.
Erik has focused his research on K-16 approaches to education policymaking. K-16 theory proposes that substantive engagement between K-12 and higher education is the only way to ensure that the 85-90% of high school students who self-report that they want to go to college actually do. K-16 offers a comprehensive set of policy prescriptions designed to align often disparate K-12 and higher education systems such that they work collaboratively in not only helping students to achieve their higher education aspirations, but also simultaneously reforming education in the process.
To test the effectiveness of K-16 theory, Erik is currently conducting research on a 25-year K-16 Partnership in Santa Ana, California, a low-income, predominantly Latino city located northeast of UC Irvine. The Partnership is a collaboration between UCI, CSU Fullerton, Santa Ana College, and Santa Ana Unified School District. Looking at policies implemented during the Partnership’s history, Erik will be examining how this key K-16 strategy has affected Santa Ana high schools, student achievement, and college going rates. Erik is also working with his advisor, Assistant Professor Thad Domina, on a project to examine how 15 years of outreach efforts by the University of California has affected California high schools in key measures of achievement.
In the future, Erik plans to study K-16 policy-making throughout the US with an eye toward understanding what types of structures are most effective at producing the types of results one would expect, given K-16 theory.