Date of Award

Summer 8-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Chair

Dr. Lilian Hill

Committee Chair Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 2

Dr. Forrest Lane

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 3

Dr. Georgianna Martin

Committee Member 3 Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Member 4

Dr. Eric Platt

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Abstract

Due to its seemingly unclear and ambiguous mission, the community college has somewhat of a stigma attached to it as a four-year institution defines the American college experience (LaPaglia, 1994). Although only a few studies concerning media portrayals of community college students have been published within the last twenty years, the existing studies (Bourke, Major, & Harris, 2009; LaPaglia, 1994; Tucciarone, 2007) have failed to address if the media’s portrayal of community colleges influences students’ decisions or actions with regard to enrolling in a two-year institution. Using the theoretical framework of critical media literacy, the researcher will examine if media portrayals determine if there is a message that creators and producers of media are attempting to convey with regard to community colleges and their students. In addition, this study will also examine if media portrayals influence students’ intent to enroll in a community college.

This qualitative study examined Mississippi community college students’ attitudes and beliefs toward media portrayals that feature community colleges and their students to see what students learn from these portrayals and how their attitudes and beliefs influenced their decision to attend a specific type of institution. Currently enrolled college students who shared an interest in media portrayals featuring two-year institutions and their students participated in the interviews. Pearl River Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College served as sites of data collection. After the researcher conducted interviews, they were coded and analyzed for thematic content.

As part of the study’s data analysis phase, the researcher identified five common themes that emerged during the interviews. Among the themes that emerged are those concerning the inaccuracy of media portrayals that feature community colleges and their students and the various reasons as to why students enroll in two-year institutions. The findings of the study suggested media portrayals did not influence community college students’ decision to enroll in a specific type of institution.

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