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How students understand financial aid: A qualitative study of the college choice process

Jannette Mendez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study is to explore how low-income, first-generation college students understand and make sense of the process of obtaining financial aid as a source of influence on college choice decisions. This qualitative study of nine low-income, first-generation college students focuses on how the students understand financial aid in relation to their educational aspirations, plans, and choices. The results that emerge from the constant comparative analysis of interviews with these students, their parents, and guidance counselors suggest that the college choice process is more heavily influenced by cost and financial aid than has been recognized in previous models of college choice. As a result, a new model is presented in which cost and financial aid are incorporated as major determinants of college choice for low-income, first-generation college students.

Subject Area

Higher education|School finance

Recommended Citation

Mendez, Jannette, "How students understand financial aid: A qualitative study of the college choice process" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110533.