Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level



Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology


Donald M. Johnson

Committee Member

Leslie D. Edgar

Second Committee Member

Kate W. Shoulders

Third Committee Member

Zola K. Moon


Social sciences, Aspirations, Barriers, Community perceptiions, Expectations, Rural brain drain


Rural youth are leaving their home communities in search of economic opportunity. Students’ residential, occupational, and educational aspirations are effective predictors of life choices, such as future residence. This study’s purpose was to determine the aspirations of rural students in Arkansas overall, and by locale. This study used descriptive survey methodology and a stratified random sample of 15 rural schools to determine the respondents’ (n = 133) aspirations, expectations for the future, and perception(s) of their home community.

Overall, a majority of respondents indicated they want to leave their home communities and obtain at least a bachelor’s degree. Nearly half aspired to work in health sciences or education. Moderate associations were found between the respondents’ residential and educational aspirations. Weak associations were also found for respondents’ expectations and locale code. Students indicated that occupational and educational barriers were similar. Lack of money for school, poor job markets, and family responsibilities were the most frequent barriers for a majority of respondents overall. Good paying jobs, many chances to get ahead, and indoor entertainment were the community characteristics for which respondents indicated high importance, but low satisfaction. As for students’ perceptions of their home communities, responses provided were fairly low to neutral. Negligible to small effect sizes were found when describing differences by rural code for perceptions of community, perceived importance of community characteristics, and satisfaction with community characteristics.

The residential aspirations of these respondents resemble individuals involved in the brain drain. Responses provided from respondents concerning their aspirations supports previous research regarding the aspirations of rural students. These students’ responses also reflect concepts associated with achievement motivation, Social comparison, and human capital theory. Based on these findings, this study recommends conducting future research regarding more in-depth information concerning rural Arkansas youth’s aspirations. Additionally, for school districts whose students are similar to those in this study, counselors and administrators should provide opportunities college prep, such as, applying for financial aid, and hosting ACT and college entrance requirement workshops. Finally, based on respondents’ low perceptions of their communities, similar communities should consider providing opportunities such as job fairs, job shadowing, and mentorship programs.