Date of Award

Winter 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Dana Burnett

Committee Member

Mitchell Williams

Committee Member

Joseph L. Devitis

Committee Member

Loreta Ulmer


This qualitative study examined the challenges rural southern Appalachian community colleges officials face when serving students with learning disabilities. Upon entering community college, learning disabled students are often unfamiliar with many of the expectations that may be necessary to ensure their academic success such as self-disclosing to ensure they are provided adequate services, becoming self-advocates, and navigating requirements of post-secondary education. This study consisted of 15 interviews from five different community colleges across the rural southern Appalachian region in which senior level, mid-level, and front line community college officials dealing with students with learning disabilities were interviewed. A document review was also incorporated into this study. Community colleges in rural southern Appalachia are presented with their own unique set of challenges in serving the learning disabled population. Geographical isolation results in a lack of funding and available services to appropriately serve the learning disabled population. Community colleges contain many traits that assist and facilitate the empowerment of students with learning disabilities. The traits should be shared with surrounding community colleges so that methods toward serving students with learning disabilities may be improved.


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