Factors influencing students’ choice to study abroad at an open-access institution:
Blair, Cele Nichelle
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This action research study examined factors influencing students’ choice to study abroad at “Atlanta-Based College” (ABC), an access institution wishing to increase study-abroad opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. Many scholars and practitioners view the national initiative to advance study abroad as an important contributor to graduating globalized citizens. However, only a small percentage of students take advantage of such opportunities—at ABC and at access institutions in general. Therefore, this case study examined students’ decision-making process using the Collapsed Perna integrated model of student choice as a framework. A multi-functional action research group was selected to implement the action research project and address the following primary research questions: (1) What does an access institution learn about the study-abroad decision-making process using the Collapsed Perna integrated model of student choice as a framework? (2) How does an action research project centering on study abroad in an access institution advance practice and theory at the individual, group, and system levels? The study showed that the higher education context of layer 2/3 of the Perna model was highly influential in the student-choice process. This suggest that the predominant issue preventing open-access college students from studying abroad is not student interest. Rather, it is the lack of institutionalization of study abroad. Open-access institutions ought to consider shifting their focus from student barriers to institutional barriers. This study also exemplifies the use of action research to address a systemic problem at an open-access institution.