Nearly half of America’s school districts are located in rural areas, yet the unique needs of these students are too often overlooked in the college search and selection process.
While family income, parental educational attainment, and prior academic achievement all play a role in limiting college access, systemic constraints also come into play – resulting in lower rates of college attendance for rural students when compared to their urban and suburban peers.
One such barrier? Poverty due to the loss of economic opportunities.
“The poverty and loss of economic bases often lead to the tension for rural students who must make difficult decisions to stay in their communities, filled with rich connections to people and place, or leave for locations with more postsecondary education or career options, potentially never returning,” Darris R. Means, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, wrote in a new NACAC research-to-practice brief.
In the paper, Means offers an array of strategies to better support rural students in their pursuit of higher education.
One of the recommendations calls on counselors and others to use community bonds to encourage college attendance.
“Leaders, counselors, teachers, and other professionals working in rural schools and school districts have an opportunity to capitalize on resources available in their communities to enhance support for college access and enrollment,” Means notes in the brief. “This support could come in the form of collaborating with local businesses, community civic organizations, religious organizations, and any nearby postsecondary education institutions to mentor students on the college admission process, as well as future career and college opportunities, offer workshops or resources related to college enrollment, and/or organize visits to colleges and universities.”
Read the full report and learn more about rural students and college access in the winter edition of The Journal of College Admission.
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