School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Andrea R Lee


Community College, Emerging Adulthood, Higher Education, Hispanics, Out-of-State Tuition, Undocumented Students


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Other Education


The purpose of this qualitative transcendental phenomenological study is to describe the experiences of undocumented Hispanic students paying out-of-state tuition while enrolled at selected community colleges in Eastern North Carolina. This study is guided by Arnett’s emerging adulthood theory, a stage of life linking adolescence and young adulthood marked by self-identity issues, exploration, planning for the future, instability, crisis, commitment, family expectations, new relationships, and new roles. The central research question focuses on the educational experiences of undocumented Hispanic students paying out-of-state tuition enrolled in rural North Carolina community colleges with restrictive in-state tuition laws. A purposeful sample of 12 undocumented Hispanic students enrolled in curriculum courses at community colleges in Eastern North Carolina was obtained. The data collection methods included semi-structured face-to-face interviews, focus groups, and document review about their experiences during their educational years, motivations and attitudes, challenges, cultural and family values, and the importance of a college degree in their future plans. Qualitative data analysis procedures included the determination of recurring themes, reading, memoing, and thematic coding. Undocumented Hispanic students experienced multiple situations that increased their frustration during school years including inability to communicate, losing years of school, learning the school culture, and dealing unsupportive educational staff, faculty, and students. Undocumented Hispanic students consider that the value of a college degree is very important and may yet be uncertain. Undocumented Hispanic students expect to continue their college beyond associate degree and become successful professionals in their communities.