Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Higher Education Administration

First Advisor's Name

Leonard B. Bliss

First Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Maureen C. Kenny

Third Advisor's Name

Janice Sandiford

Fourth Advisor's Name

Joan Wynne

Keywords

student aspirations, educational policy, high ranking students, college aspirations, college choice, affirmative action, and percentage plans

Date of Defense

3-28-2011

Abstract

Percentage plans such as the Talented Twenty program purport to assist and motivate high ranking students to attend college and grant access to higher education. This type of plan is particularly important to students enrolled in high priority schools who might not view themselves as potential college students. This study examined the relationship between Florida’s Talented Twenty program that begins intervention with juniors and the college aspirations for high ranking students at a high priority school. Numerous studies have established that increased levels of education lead to higher salaries, career mobility, and an increased quality of life (e.g., Bowen, 1997; Leslie & Brinkman 1988; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, Swail, 2000). Given the importance of students’ decisions regarding whether or not they will attend college, understanding how and when they make decisions about attending college is important for them, their parents, advisors, and educational administrators.

This research examined students’ perceptions and insights via interviews. The overarching research question was: How do high ranking high school students attending a high priority school in a south Florida district perceive their college opportunities? Sixteen high ranking students, grades nine – 12 from a high priority school in Miami-Dade County participated in the study. Participants were identified by a school counselor and individual semi structured interviews were conducted at the school. Utilizing a student development theoretical framework developed by Hossler and Gallagher (1987) that centered on students’ predisposition, search strategies and choices, data were organized and emergent themes analyzed.

The analysis of the data revealed that in alignment with the framework (a) parents were the strongest influence in the development of these students’ college aspirations, (b) these students formalized their higher education plans between eighth and 10th grade, (c) these students actively engaged in academic searches and learning opportunities that increased their chances to be admitted into college, and (d) there was no relationship between knowledge regarding the Talented Twenty program and their educational decisions. This study’s findings suggest that interventions and programs intended to influence the educational aspirations of students are more likely to succeed if they take place by the eighth or ninth grade.

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