Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Higher Education (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Michael T. Miller

Committee Member

Michael S. Hevel

Second Committee Member

G. David Gearhart


College Access, College Choice, Rural College, Underrepresented Students


The purpose for conducting the study was to describe the community, personal experiences, and life events of individuals from rural Arkansas communities in developing their decisions to attend college and how the community impacted their successful enrollment at the University of Arkansas. Specifically, the study set out to explore how rural communities were perceived to influence college enrollment decisions and choices in degree selection. Although situated at one case study institution, the University of Arkansas, the findings have importance for all rural students and communities, and ultimately public policy and institutional behaviors. Therefore, the purpose for conducting the study was to describe how students from rural Arkansas communities developed their decisions to attend college.

A case study research approach was utilized through qualitative methodology and grounded in the conceptualization of community expectancy incorporating social, cultural, and human capital lenses. The Model of Community Expectancy was utilized to explore how the 7 rural interview participants’ individual community interacted with and influenced college enrollment decisions through learned behaviors, personal identity, beliefs, and actions. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant to explore how rural student enrollment decisions are shaped by the communities from which they come.

Study findings identified a number of variables influencing rural student decisions in seeking college enrollment, including the role of family, community motivations, interactions within the high school setting, and through formal and informal community interactions.