Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Academic Discipline

Community College Leadership


The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between the opportunity to participate in community college athletics and students’ aspirations regarding higher education. Students who may not have considered a college education due to a lack of family support, financial resources, or underperformance in secondary education may decide to attend college because of the opportunities to excel in college sports. This interest in sports motivates some student-athletes towards academic accomplishments including completion of a college degree.

This study employed a partially mixed methods approach, which included a survey of community college athletes, focus groups of community college student-athletes, and focused interviews with athletics directors at community colleges. The research produced a collective case study of three community colleges in Illinois in order to provide a description of the relationship between opportunities for intercollegiate athletics participation at the community college and the student athlete’s aspiration to attend college. The findings indicate athletics participation is one of the primary reasons the student athletes in this study aspired to attend college. However, as the participants considered the opportunity to continue excelling at their sport at the postsecondary level, they experienced additional influences such as the recognition that college is an effective way to prepare for a career that is both financially rewarding and meaningful and the perception that a college education is a vehicle for improved social mobility. In addition, the student athletes and their parents recognized that their athletic achievements could be rewarded by college scholarships at both the two-year and four-year levels, and that these scholarships have the potential to ease the burden of the costs of a college education.

The findings reveal the significance of these combined factors on college aspiration for student athletes. The study concludes with the Knight Model for the impact of athletics participation on aspiration to attend college, which provides community college leaders with a visual understanding of the implications of this study.