Institutions of higher education face exceptional challenges in today’s environment. College costs are increasing, funding is decreasing and/or limited, public confidence is diminishing, the work-place is changing, and a shrinking pool of traditional-age college students exists. This creates an environment where colleges and universities find themselves competing for students. So that these institutions of higher education may better understand how to recruit, advise, and retain students, one must consider the barriers first-time freshmen encounter in the pursuit of formal learning as they enter college.
The purpose of this study, therefore, was to determine the perceived barriers to educational participation held by first-time enrolling college freshmen at Northwestern State University, and further, to determine if a model exists that would explain differences in these perceptions based on the variables age, gender, family obligations, employment status, marital status, household income, enrollment status, ethnicity, and degree program. The total number of first-time freshmen analyzed as part of the study was 1,079.
Using a modification of a portion of a questionnaire by Carp, Peterson, and Roelfs (1972), students were asked to indicate the level of concern they had for an item perceived to be a possible barrier to their participation in higher education. Items were further categorized using Cross’s conceptual framework of barriers as being situational, institutional, or dispositional. Results showed that although the model had only a minimal amount of variance that could be explained, some statistical differences among groups was found. Multiple regression analyses were used to determine the models that explained the subjects’ barriers to participation concern level. Results from the regression models resulted in findings those financial concerns, which would include household income, employment status, marital status, age, and family obligations are determining factors in how barriers are perceived by students.
Variables which made significant contributions to the models included: whether the student was Caucasian, age, household income, whether the student was single/head of household, whether the student was undecided in degree program, and family obligations (defined as the number of dependents).