In this ethnographic study, Becca Spindel Bassett investigates why low-income and first-generation students access fewer resources and gain fewer benefits from their university campuses than do their higher-income, continuing-generation peers. Building on sociological theories that emphasize the relational and political dynamics of resource acquisition, the article explores the disadvantages that these students face in making persuasive claims on university resources and the role that faculty and staff can play in mitigating these disadvantages. Drawing on a year-long ethnographic study of two universities that serve and graduate large numbers of low-income, first-generation students, Bassett finds that faculty and staff drew on three common, proactive strategies to empower students to make effective claims on university resources, which directed them toward valuable resources and elevated their local social status. These findings challenge foundational theories in higher education that attribute equity gaps to individual-level differences, as well as reveal the importance of claims-making processes in determining who succeeds and who struggles on campus and underscore the critical role that faculty and staff can play in fostering more structurally and culturally supportive campuses.

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