Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A bridge over troubled waters: Adults' perceptions of for-profit education as a viable choice
by Flack, Adrianne, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2016, 382; 10116306
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study, which uses a narrative research approach informed by Riessman’s (2008) work, explores the “college choice” experience of seven adult students, age 25 and older, who pursue postsecondary education at a non-degree granting, less-than-two-year private for-profit institution in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. My conceptual framework blends together post-structural and critical theories of literacy, college choice scholarship, and literature about for-profit education in examining how and why students take an educational pathway that counters two prevailing social discourses about postsecondary education: the first of which pertains to the college for all movement that situates 4-year degree attainment as a universal goal, and second, the discourse of for-profit education as an undesirable institutional type. My findings revealed the following several factors influenced participants’ decision making in selecting a sub-baccalaureate program at a non-degree granting, private for-profit institution: the economy, academic readiness, program length of study, travel distance to school, school representatives’ responsiveness to their inquiries, perceived access to employers via school, age, and the dearth of support available to guide adults’ decision making. Using James Gee’s notion of discourses/Discourses along with discourse analytic tools and strategies advocated in Wortham and Rymes’s work, this research also explored how the term “for-profit education” is understood differently by a wide array of individuals. Related to the issue of nomenclature, I also examined the way in which the institution in this study portrays itself to consumers. My findings with regard to the languaging of “for-profit” education revealed that the meaning of this term is not commonly understood, thus complicating the value of using such a descriptor to identify this sector of postsecondary education. In conclusion, the notion of “for-profit education” was not a factor in participants’ decision making. Further, this study illuminates important considerations about the intersectionality of age with other factors in making educational choices, suggesting that adulthood cannot be looked upon as a homogenous category. Thus practitioners, policy makers and researchers should pay attention to where individuals fall on the continuum of adulthood to best support their career and educational needs.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Campano, Gerald
Commitee: Perna, Laura W., Rymes, Betsy R.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Reading, Writing, Literacy
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 77/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Adult education, Higher education
Keywords: Career/trade schools, Critical literacy, Discourse analysis, For-profit education, Narrative research, Postsecondary choice
Publication Number: 10116306
ISBN: 978-1-339-77774-0
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