Social capital, a resource for the human capital development of university students

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Etcheverry, Emily
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The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between social capital and human capital pertaining to students in the context of the university. It is proposed that an educational environment that students perceive to be challenging and supportive is a social capital resource that stimulates them to acquire human capital resources of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The study was conducted in the faculty of education at the University of Manitoba. Data from The Quality of Student Life Questionnaire developed in 1991 and completed in February 1992 by 269 undergraduate students who were selected using a stratified random cluster sampling technique, are analyzed. Students were asked about their social and university backgrounds, their perceptions of being challenged and supported in the faculty, their academic self-concepts, their time use, their grade point averages, and their educational expectations. A theoretical model outlines proposed Linkages between social capital and the human capital development of students, and guides the structural equation modeling procedures used to analyze the interrelationships between the 15 variables in the model. Several findings in this study support the idea that social capital is a resource that can significantly contribute to the human capital development of students. Overall, within the context of the fifteen variables in the theoretical model, the social capital variables, in particular the support variables, interaction with professors, interaction with students and positive affect, are shown to add to the amount of variance that is explained in both of the student effort variables and in all three of the human capital variables. One support variable, interaction with students, has a direct positive effect on two human capital variables, self-concept of ability and GPA. Two of the social capital support variables, interaction with students and positive affect, have a positive effect on students' time planning, which, in turn, has a positive effect on GPA. Interestingly, the social capital challenge variables, that assess students perceptions of challenges they experience in the educational environment, have little effect on the student effort or the human capital variables. The function dimension of challenge, however has significant positive effects on all of the social capital support variables. Also the empirical findings of this study show that stability and closure in the educational environment, in the form of years of university experience and credit hours of enrollment, enhance the development of new knowledge, skills and attitudes in students. It is concluded that planners in the faculties and professional schools of universities can use the concept of "social capital" as an important indicator of accountability related to their primary goal of developing the human capital of students. Also the concept can be used to guide the development of policies and practices that intentionally attend to social-structural relations within the educational environment.