The purpose for this dissertation is to explore how students who have borrowed to attend a large, urban community college develop their value proposition for postsecondary education. Nearly half of all students in the United States begin their postsecondary education at community colleges. In the aftermath of the Great Recession when unemployment rates were unusually high, enrollment at community colleges increased dramatically, especially amongst minority students. This study focuses on three central questions: how do community college students describe their demand for higher education? Secondly, how do these students describe the economic and social benefits of college? And thirdly, to what extent do students understand the costs of college and their sources of financial aid? The study modifies Perna's Multi-Level Conceptual Model of Student Enrollment based upon the findings derived from qualitative interviews with twenty, currently community college students during the 2012 fall semester to determine how community college students define their value proposition. This value proposition was found to be comprised of the student's demand for higher education through academic preparation, availability of financial resources and the student's aspirations. Additionally, the value proposition was comprised of the expected benefits as expressed in monetary and non-monetary expectations as well as cost considerations. These combined enrollment factors were used to determine what criteria formed the basis for the student's borrowing decision and the use of the loan proceeds. The student interviews were analyzed through the lens of the multi-level conceptual framework and an interview with the institution's lending officer was used to interpret the student responses. The choice to attend community college was found to be more circumstantial than deliberate. The increasingly nontraditional students who do enroll in these institutions often have to balance employment and family obligations in pursuit of their aspirations. While these students pursued college with the expectation of higher earnings upon completion, many had an altruistic purpose in serving others. Finally, there exists a significant knowledge gap with regard to financial literacy exists among students which is exacerbated by the complexity of the financial aid process and the limited institutional resources available to support the nontraditional students attending community colleges.
|Advisor:||Finney, Joni E.|
|Commitee:||McGuinness, Aims C., Naughton, Blake|
|School:||University of Pennsylvania|
|Department:||Higher Education Management|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Community college education, Education finance, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Community college, Gateway to middle class, Postsecondary education borrowing, Student loans, Value proposition|
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