The battle of compliance over advocacy among street-level bureaucrats: understanding perceptions and approaches of financial aid workers in the United States

Conroy, Edward (2021) The battle of compliance over advocacy among street-level bureaucrats: understanding perceptions and approaches of financial aid workers in the United States. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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My focus in this research is on the experiences of financial aid leaders and frontline staff as Street-level Bureaucrats (SLBs), focusing on whether those staff approach their work primarily from a compliance-focused mindset or if they adopt advocacy-based approaches. A primary goal of this work was to ascertain whether financial aid staffs were more likely to use advocacy-based approaches if they were provided with better information. In particular, better information about the structural challenges within the financial aid system and the supports beyond financial aid that were available to help them better support students. I utilize an interpretive approach to this work and use multiple theoretical approaches to help understand my data. Foucault’s ideas of discipline and panopticism are used to show how financial aid staff operate under constant professional surveillance with the compliance requirements in their jobs. I also utilize Ball’s Foucauldian approaches to shed light on the idea that financial aid staff exist under the same weight of compliance requirements as Ball has attached to teachers and performativity. I support these pieces of theory with Lipsky’s street-level bureaucrat ideas, bolstered by Zacka’s recent work that utilizes the same concepts and adds in the ideal types of SLBs that I use as a methodological tool. Lastly, I use Herd and Moynihan’s work on administrative burden to highlight the weight of compliance requirements that financial aid staff labour under. I have utilized multiple surveys of financial aid staff and leaders to create quantifiable data to generate descriptive statistics and open-ended questions that I analyze using qualitative analysis to strengthen my descriptive data. My findings show that financial aid staff tend to adopt more compliance-based approaches but are willing to consider other operating methods if provided with the information needed to do so. My discussion sections explore how my theoretical lenses and the data intersect to show how and why financial aid staff tend to follow compliance-based approaches in their work. I also examine to what extent there are ways to shift them towards advocacy approaches to provide students with more support than they currently receive. I conclude with how this work contributes to the base of higher education theory, implications for policy and practice and financial aid, and how this work has changed my understanding as a professional in this field.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hermannsson, Dr. Kristinn and Murphy, Dr. Mark
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82849
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 May 2022 14:02
Last Modified: 04 May 2022 14:02
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82849

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