Where a student goes to college and if someone pursues a higher education at all may be determined by where someone grew up, according to research conducted by Andrew Koricich, a Texas Tech assistant professor of higher education.
His research article, The Effects of Rurality on College Access and Choice, shows the differences between rural and urban life impact decisions made by students when it comes to college.
“Having grown up in a small town and spending so much time in these rural communities,” Koricich said, “I feel very strongly about trying to improve all of the things that are happening. They tend to be poorer communities, and education is very important in trying to fix poverty and nutrition and healthcare and all of these things that can also be difficult.”
Although rural communities historically have a lower education rate, few studies have focused on this specific community, according to his research article.
Students from a larger city are 20 percent more likely to attend a university than students from rural areas, he said. If someone from a small town does attend college, Koricich’s research shows he or she most likely will attend a less selective school, he said.
“Students coming from rural communities are more likely to attend a community college,” Koricich said. “The question is, are they going to these institutions because it’s the choice they’re making or are they going to these institutions because it’s the only choice they have? ”
Koricich said he plans to further investigate this question and others in the future to understand why.
Last weekend, Koricich presented his research at a convention hosted by the American Educational Research Association. His analysis examines policies that could increase access and opportunity for rural students and why they choose specific majors or universities.
“This all may be a function of how far away they are,” he said. “They may not have the resources to move out of state to go to school. I haven’t yet been able to take these results and really get at the why, but it is showing there are some underlying challenges just by virtue of where they’re from.”
In a city like Lubbock, Koricich said a unique blend of city and country exists.
While Lubbock has nearly 250,000 people, he said the city is still five hours away from nearly any other major city.
“You get a mixture of inner city and rural issues,” Koricich said. “Because Texas Tech serves such a large rural area, it’s going to be important for large institutions like Tech to provide opportunities for all students.”
A student may choose Tech because of its large agricultural and wind energy programs, which generally appeal to students whose hometowns focus on these industries, he said.
Emily James, a freshman human development and family studies major from Panhandle, said she chose Tech because she felt the 3.5-hour drive to Lubbock was a decent distance from home.
“I don’t really go home on the weekends,” she said. “I know a lot of people who did choose to go here because it’s close. I have a friend from Idalou, which is like 20 minutes away, who chose Tech because they could go home on the weekends.”
An estimated 60 million people live in rural communities today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In general, Koricich said few studies research rural students in particular because many researchers feel they cannot justify spending money to research a small group of people. In studies, rural and urban communities alike often are treated the same, he said. However, he said a rural community in Pennsylvania differs vastly from rural Texas.
“Part of it is making sure this is not a population that just gets forgotten,” he said. “I’m not naïve. I know we’re not just going to all of a sudden start throwing money at it to fix the problem, but I think making sure we don’t forget they’re part of everything we need is important.”
The odds of a female attending college are about the same for both rural and city students, he said, despite differences in several categories.
Although several of his findings favored students from large urban areas, Koricich said low-income families are generally not as disadvantaged as their city counterparts.
“By no means is that good,” he said, “but it was slightly worse for students from a more populated area. That was interesting because it really was the only one that showed a difference. I wasn’t expecting that given everything else that was in favor of the non-rural students.”