Recruiting Urban and Rural Students: Factors Influencing the Postsecondary Education Institution Choices for Rural versus Urban High School Students

Article excerpt

This study tests factors that are most instrumental to high school seniors when selecting postsecondary institutions. Forty-nine students were sampled in a structured telephone interview to ascertain the key factors. Results demonstrate some diference between urban and

rural students influencing factors. Implications and a future research agenda are discussed.

Each year, hundreds of colleges and universities spend millions of dollars on recruiting high school students to attend selected postsecondary institutions. In recent years there has been a push, primarily by land-grant universities, to tap into the out-of-state student population. The rationale for doing this is twofold. First, the out-of-state students pay higher tuition rates than the in-state students, offering a financial boost to the institution. Secondly, by bringing in students from outside the state's borders, the institution's diversity is enhanced.

Many institutions are spending money to recruit these students to fill their classrooms. However, little effort is made to individualize the recruitment process. Instead, a more generalized approach is used as an economical way to contact more students. This method is often viewed as impersonal. Students comment that they feel more like a number than an individual. With this in mind, and realizing that students are not the same, using a more individualized approach has proven to be effective for many schools (Kuras 1997).

Because recruitment and admissions are hot buttons for many postsecondary institutions, it is important that the most effective methods are used. One difference that may impact students' needs is the setting in which they were raised. This study offers a comparison of students from rural and urban upbringings, and determines how their needs may be different.

Recruiting Strategies in the Field: Some Background

Because student recruitment is such a pressing issue for colleges and universities, a fair amount of research has been done in the area. Gose (1997a) looked at concerns over decreases in postsecondary enrollment and reported that private universities and colleges have suffered a drop in applications during the 1996-97 school year, in part because more applicants were opting for early admissions programs. These early admissions programs force applicants to commit to one institution earlier, thus limiting the number of college applications. Highly regarded public universities in Texas and California have experienced a sharp decline in applications from minority students, in part because of new and proposed legislation to adopt policies that abolish affirmative action admission programs. Filling seats is a pressing need for an increasing number of postsecondary institutions.

This poses some questions. How will these institutions fill their empty seats in classrooms? Are there certain groups of students that should be targeted? How can colleges and universities give these groups what they want? Gose (1998) describes how Temple University, a private institution, is recruiting aggressively in the suburbs. Temple University research shows that suburban students are better prepared academically and are more likely to live on campus, stay in school, and graduate. The University has decided to lure suburbanites by adding new buildings to the North Philadelphia campus. Temple hopes that the appeal of the new buildings will be attractive to this highly desired group of students.

Some colleges, such as the University of Detroit-Mercy, employ more personal contact of students from university officials to boost enrollment. Kuras (1997) discusses the plan that the University of Detroit-Mercy created to increase its enrollment rate. Dr. Robert E. Johnson, Dean of Enrollment Management, evaluated the correspondence system and developed a newer and more effective system. He used personalized correspondence to be distributed to those who contacted the admissions office. …