Anonymous anomaly: nonresident undergraduates on a 21st century land grant campus

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


The experiences of nonresident undergraduates enrolled in US public universities have remained understudied. Accordingly, the purpose of this qualitative intrinsic case study was to explore the nonresident undergraduate's experience, persistence and sense of belonging on a land grant university campus. Combined, findings were intended to expand the literature base, methodological approaches and practitioner programming regarding nonresident persistence. Existing transition and institutional logics theory formed the basis of the study's theoretical framework. Nine first-time, full-time third year undergraduates from states across three time zones were interviewed twice during their sixth semester of college enrollment. Additionally, data was collected through photovoice and document analysis methods. Findings for each research question were reported through a thematic analysis. Themes related to experience included: adapting from home to university life, motivating from enrollment to degree, and recreating as a lifestyle. Themes related to persistence included: accessing campus resources, familying from afar, and socializing to stay. Themes related to sense of belonging included: transforming through personal growth, identifying across groups and areas, and supporting across communities. Lived experience findings supported existing literature on socioeconomic and enrollment management while extending the literature on financial challenges. Persistence findings supported past literature on third year priorities and extended the literature on nonresident peer groups and family support. Sense of belonging findings supported literature on the theoretical construct of interdependence while extending the literature on the influence of community characteristics and campus climate. Policy implications for nonresident retention centered on leveraging outdoor curriculum, addressing nonresident insurance, revising nonresident tuition models and expanding nonresident mentoring programs. Practice implications for nonresident retention focused on innovations to summer orientation programming, expanding transportation options, expanding family weekend opportunities, and offering more resources on the surrounding community. Future recommendations focused on expanding research both in methodological scope and duration to better understand the nonresident experience.




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