College & Workforce Readiness

Poverty Helps Explain Why Rural Students Don’t Finish College

By Diette Courrégé Casey — May 23, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Rural students have more access to community social resources that should help them earn college degrees, but they trail their nonrural peers in doing so, largely because of poverty.

Those are the key findings in “Rural-Nonrural Disparities in Postsecondary Educational Attainment Revisited,” an updated study published in the June issue of the American Educational Research Journal. The authors are: Soo-yong Byun, Judith L. Meece, and Matthew J. Irvin, all of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A subscription is needed to view the full article.

The study’s authors measured community social resources by looking at how often parents talked with the parents of their children’s friends, how well parents knew their children’s friends, and how often students participated in religious services.

They used data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study that in 1988 surveyed 25 8th-graders in 1,000 randomly selected middle schools. Those children were tracked through high school graduation and eight years after that.

They looked at whether family background, community social resources, or academic preparation could explain the rural lag in post-secondary attainment.

Rural students’ parents were less likely to have bachelor’s degrees and less likely to expect their children to finish college compared with urban and suburban students. Rural students also were more likely to have lower high school test scores and less likely to have taken rigorous courses, which were indicators of academic preparation.

But rural students had more community social resources, with their parents being more likely to communicate with and know the parents of their child’s friends. Rural students also more frequently participated in religious services.

The study found part of the difference in rural students’ college enrollment and completion shortcomings could be attributed to their low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The study’s authors suggested future research could look at other factors to better understand the disparities between rural and nonrural college degree attainment.

They also acknowledged the increasing rate of rural high school students graduating from college, and they suggested analyzing a more recent group of high school students for trends.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion Can College-Going Be Less Risky Without Being 'Free'?
Rick Hess speaks with Peter Samuelson, president of Ardeo Education Solutions, about Ardeo's approach to make paying for college less risky.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion An Economist Explains How to Make College Pay
Rick Hess speaks with Beth Akers about practical advice regarding how to choose a college, what to study, and how to pay for it.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.