Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type





Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Jane Jensen


Too few Kentucky community college students transfer and persist to earn baccalaureate degrees. This is particularly true in Appalachia Kentucky which has a high rate of poverty and a low rate of baccalaureate attainment. Scholars and economists agree that the fastest way to decrease poverty within a geographical region is to increase the educational level of the citizens. Policy makers in the Commonwealth have established a goal of doubling the number of baccalaureate holders within the state by 2020.

This study is framed by a collaborative study which examined the ways in which institutional and student characteristics impact the pathway to the baccalaureate degree for Appalachian community college students in Kentucky. Quantitative analysis was conducted for the student populations who graduated in the summer and spring 2009 from four Appalachian community colleges. A framework was developed that identified two of the colleges as high-impact. The graduates of these colleges were twice as likely to transfer as the students from the two low-impact institutions. The two high performing colleges had partnership arrangements with baccalaureate-granting institutions that offered multiple degree options in or near the community college campus.

Four companion studies that examined institutional and student characteristics were conducted. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the ways in which nontraditional-aged Appalachian women attending college as location-bound adults perceive the supports and challenges to baccalaureate attainment. Twenty-four women were interviewed to explore the ways in which they balance their multiple life roles with the demands of their postsecondary studies, to understand their perceptions how Appalachian culture impacts them as students, and their perceptions of the ways in which educational institutions provide them with baccalaureate access. Narrative was used both as the method of inquiry and the object of interpretation.

Major themes that emerged from this study included: (1) Adult Appalachian female students are both challenged and supported by their major life roles and (2) Postsecondary institutions provide both support and challenges to this population.



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