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Low income, rural student experience with college costs and financial aid in the college choice process: a phenomenological analysis




Lehman, John B., author
Kuk, Linda, advisor
Ellis, Mike, committee member
Siller, Thom, committee member
Foley, Jeff, committee member

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As tuition at many post-secondary institutions have risen in the last decade, financial aid and the comprehension of college cost is increasingly important for students to understand, especially those students from homes with limited financial means. The purpose of this interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was to understand and interpret the process of how low income, rural students in the northern Midwest: 1. Learn and make meaning of college costs and financial aid, and 2. Utilize that understanding in making enrollment decisions. Interviews with thirteen students revealed six emergent themes and three super-ordinate themes. In this study, the data suggested the essence of the shared experience of the participants was that college is expensive. However, the students thought that their financial aid and educational loans were an appropriate, though sometimes unfair, manner by which to pay for that expense. In addition the participants felt that if the college degree's expense was to be justified the result must be a job salary high enough to pay back educational loans. The students were confident that their education would get them a high paying job, but this opinion was grounded in a trust of the institution more than it was grounded in a thorough analysis by the students themselves. The results support the earlier findings of Perna's model of college choice (2006). The study concludes with recommendations for both future research and for those working in the fields of college access.


2014 Fall.

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college costs
financial aid


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