Where no place is home : understanding rural students in higher education
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Despite students from rural communities coming in second by less than one percentage point in high school graduation rates among the four geographic locales recognized by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), their enrollment rates in higher education are the lowest of each category falling just over 12 percentage points behind the next closest locale. Extant literature on rural students reveals both internal and external conflicts that students experience as they choose to pursue higher education and once they matriculate onto their campuses. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand how college students from rural communities negotiate these tensions. With rural students enrolling in higher education at rates lower than any other locale recognized by the NCES, those students from rural communities who do matriculate risk marginalization both on campus and as they return to their hometown. Drawing upon concepts from Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth model and Anzaldúa’s (1987) Borderlands, I examined how students utilized resources and knowledges from their rural upbringing to navigate the physical, social, and intellectual transitions between their hometown and new college community. With stakeholders in higher education beginning to look to rural students as an answer to enrollment challenges findings from this study can help inform strategies that colleges and universities use to not only recruit but also retain these students.