Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


King, Stephanie B.

Committee Member

Johnson, Susan M.

Committee Member

McMullan, Leigh Ann

Committee Member

Coats, Linda T.

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Community College Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Educational Leadership


The rural brain drain, an event wherein a rural locale's educated youth out-migrates, is speculated to be the root cause of nonmetropolitan human capital exhaustion. This study promotes the speculation that community colleges hold promise in reversing the brain drain, as they are primed to elevate the human capital level of stayers while offering programs of interest through which job opportunities may be made available to those who choose to leave. This study was developed to ascertain whether any differences existed in stayers' and leavers' perceptions of several community college facets, such as perceived learning gains, initial impressions, student-institution bond, institutional fit, and intent to leave. A quantitative study was designed, and independent t-tests were utilized in order to test whether any significant differences existed between the populations of “would-be-stayers” and “would-be-leavers.” A web-based survey entitled the Student Community College Perception Instrument was emailed to all currently- enrolled students at a single, rural community college in the Southeastern United States. Responses were collected from 310 students who were enrolled full-time. Roughly 79% of students who participated in the study lived in one of the counties within the community college district; of these, approximately 57% chose that they planned on leaving the area, whilst 43% indicated they planned to stay. Of the remaining participants, 65% planned to leave the area in which they currently resided (outside of the college district), while 35% who did not live in the district were planning to stay. All 4 of these groups rated 32 statements concerning their perceptions of the community college. Significant differences were found between the leavers and stayers, as the stayers were less likely than leavers to transfer or withdraw from the college within 6 months, more positively perceived that the college offered academic programs they were interested in, and that the college was assisting them in developing more self-confidence and helping to make them aware of diversity issues, while preparing them to be future leaders. Overall, the stayers had more positive perceptions concerning their initial impressions of the college, their institutional fit, the student-community college bond, and their perceived learning goals.