Fleeing the Nest or Staying Close? How Perceptions of Family and Place Shape the Postsecondary Enrollment of Rural Men and Women Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Agger, Charlotte
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Despite reporting high educational aspirations, rural youth continue to exhibit lower college enrollment and completion rates than their urban and suburban and peers (Byun, Meece, & Irvin, 2012b; Meece et al., 2013, 2014; Snyder & Dillow, 2010). For these individuals, low educational attainment can result in financial, developmental, and health-related consequences in adulthood (Abel & Deitz, 2014; Baum, Ma, & Payea, 2013). Therefore, in an effort to understand the influences that drive postsecondary enrollment, and with the aim of improving educational and developmental outcomes, the focus of this dissertation is upon the family and residential factors that shape the college enrollment of rural youth. Data used for this research were sourced from two nationwide studies; the Rural High School Aspirations Study and the Spencer Foundation Fulfilling Dreams Follow-up Study. These data (N =3,915; 51.9% female, 68.4% White) were used to examine how familial proximal processes directly and indirectly shape the postsecondary enrollment of rural adolescents. Based on a theoretically-informed conceptual model, two mediation models and two moderated mediation models were tested within a path analytic framework. Educational aspirations and academic achievement were proposed as mediators of the relations between students’ perceptions of family and place and postsecondary enrollment. Gender was hypothesized as moderating all pathways. Consistent with a bioecological model of human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), results provided evidence for adolescents’ connections to family (e.g., family responsibility) and place (e.g., positive perceptions of job opportunities), both directly and indirectly (via educational aspirations and academic achievement), as predictors of postsecondary enrollment. Multiple group analyses showed that both mediation models exhibited a better fit when gender was not constrained to be equal across model parameters. There was no evidence of moderated mediation, but one gender-moderated path—the direct path between parental respect and identification and postsecondary enrollment—was conclusive. Results highlight the importance of family and place in the postsecondary trajectories of rural adolescents, as rural students seem to be adjusting their educational aspirations and academic achievement based upon their perceptions of family and place. Further, results fall in line with previous literature (Carr & Kefalas, 2009; Petrin, Schafft, & Meece, 2014), and support a possible “leavers” verses “stayers” dichotomy, where rural girls are more likely to leave the nest to pursue postsecondary education and rural boys are more likely to stay close to their home community.
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  • In Copyright
  • Meece, Judith L.
  • Griffin, Dana
  • Hamm, Jill
  • Kainz, Kirsten
  • Byun, Soo-yong
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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