Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Mark W. Davis, PhD, MPA

Committee Member

Michelle Wade, PhD, MPA

Committee Member

Kristen Crossney, PhD, MA


Why students select the institution of higher education they choose, is becoming even more important through nationwide enrollment declines and the COVID-19 pandemic prompted economic crisis. Much of the existing research in the area of college choice, focuses on individual factors as opposed to the combination of factors that lead students to their choice of higher education institution. This study provides higher education administrators a clear view of how those factors work together and are connected. Through the use of focus groups, the study allowed for new students to share their experiences and how they approached the application and decision-making processes. In response to the overarching question, why do students choose a small rural state-owned institution of higher education for their collegiate experience, the study found participants cited five main factors in their college choice as: community and campus life, affordability, communication, academics, and distance from home.

The data collected during the focus groups provided insights to the individual experiences of each of the participants and the analysis of the data provided clear connections between the factors cited. Participants shared their experiences and many described how the individual interactions with faculty and staff at the study institution led them to feel supported and like part of a family. As higher education administrators seek to improve enrollment and attract more students, the results of this study provides important insights and recommendations to aid in future recruitment efforts.