Mitchell, Melita Pope (2015). Factors influencing prospective African American doctoral students selection of for-profit institutions. Doctoral dissertation (Adult and Community College Education), North Carolina State University.

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the values, attitudes, and beliefs that influence the selection process of African Americans who pursued their doctorates at for-profit universities. There are several types of educational settings learners have to choose from once they decide to obtain an advanced degree. Included in these options are traditional, not for profit universities (NFPUs) and for-profit universities (FPUs). The number of African Americans who pursue doctoral studies impacts the number of African Americans who will eventually become faculty members and upper level university administrators. The institutions where individuals obtain their degrees can impact their ability to move into these positions in certain academic environments (Adams & Defleur, 2005).

This study utilized Q methodology to uncover the perceptions of African Americans toward the values, attitudes, and beliefs that impact the decision to select for-profit universities for a doctoral degree. Seventeen students that selected for-profit doctoral degrees that are currently enrolled or graduated from for-profit universities participated in the study. The participants each sorted 80 statements based on their perception of the level of influence each factor had on their selection of doctoral education. Participants were asked to sort the statements using a ranking system of (+7) most impacted my decision through (-7) least impacted my decision. In addition to the sort, a post card sort questionnaire collected demographic data. Thirteen (76.5 %) of the seventeen participants completed this information. Four groups emerged as a result of the sorting of the statements that assessed the students’ perceptions of the influences on doctoral program choice at for-profit institutions. These groups were described as selection for balance and convenience, selection for interpersonal connectedness, convenience and self-efficacy and comfort with the lack of confidence.

The results of this study indicate that for-profit universities have done an excellent job in communicating their understanding of the needs of African Americans seeking to pursue doctoral studies. The findings of this study assert that there are many influences on the decision making process for African Americans that choose to attend for-profit institutions for doctoral study. Admissions requirements, institutional traits, self-efficacy, experiences and goals all influenced participants of this study. Participants indicated a need for convenience in delivery especially in regards to their lifestyle before the degree program. Flexible schedules that allow individuals to continue working were identified as a characteristic to offer. In addition, utilizing faculty and alumni to make connections and encourage enrollment was a distinguishing characteristic to another group of participants. Marketing the concept that for-profit institutions are a place to receive the needed degree to advance career and personal goals was also indicated. Lastly, the final factor lacked the confidence in their ability to be accepted and, subsequently, successful at traditional, not for profit universities found for-profit institutions a viable alternative for doctoral study. This factor found comfort in continuing their education at a for-profit institutions because they were confident from past experiences they could be successful at that type of institution.

The understanding acquired through this research study can assist admissions professionals, department chairs and faculty in the development of effective recruitment strategies for African American doctoral students. In addition, program development can be enhanced so that recruitment, retention and persistence can be addressed. Understanding the attitudes of potential students regarding the doctoral decision making process can offer a distinct perspective of what factors should be considered when creating admissions requirements, marketing plans, program development and delivery options.

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