Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership


First, Patricia F

Committee Member

Knoeppel, Robert


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain an understanding of the college choice experience of rural low-income students and how their potential use of student loans influenced their college choice decisions. In order to conduct this research study, in-depth, semi-structured interviews were used as the primary data source. Additional data sources included demographic surveys, a site visit, online resources, and meeting with key informants. The primary research question used to guide this study included: * How do rural, low-income students describe their experiences with their college choice process? The following secondary questions included in this study were: * How do rural low-income students perceive and describe their experiences in making college choice decisions in reference to their perception of accepting debt in the form of student loans? * What types of social and cultural capital did rural low-income students describe as influencing their college choice decisions? The questions were posed to explore the lived experiences of participants with their college choice process. The main themes that emerged from the data were the following: a) Reasons for selected college choice, b) Perceptions of loans, c) Role of money, and d) Resources used in the college choice process. The findings were interpreted and situated in the context of the extant literature and the conceptual base of this work. Implications for policy and practice, study limitations, recommendations for future study, and the conclusion were also presented.

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