Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Felecia Commodore

Committee Member

Jennifer Johnson


Over the past decade, for-profit career colleges have faced significant scrutiny and increased governmental regulation. Even with the skepticism of critics, for-profit enrollments surged and had one of the fastest enrollment growths among higher education sectors. For-profit career colleges are typically known for their predatory marketing practices and exorbitant costs. However, there is a significant concern surrounding why students would attend an institution with such a high cost and a socially perceived low-probability of return on investment (Cellini, 2012; Iloh & Tierney, 2013). This study employs a case study methodology to examine the decision-making process of students who selected for-profit career colleges instead of community colleges in northeast Florida. The researcher utilizes Levin and Milgrom’s Rational Choice Theory which is based upon the premise that individuals have preferences and make decisions based upon those preferences (Levin & Milgrom, 2004). In this qualitative study, the researcher utilized document evidence, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups to examine how students arrived at their choice to attend a for-profit career college instead of a lesser expensive community college. The findings of the study provide a framework for higher education practitioners and leaders to utilize the information gathered to improve or modify their current admission and recruitment strategies to increase enrollment in community colleges among non-traditional students.