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A study built on interviews with 26 students and 11 staff members at Central High School in Carrollton found that rural and impoverished African Americans have limited opportunities and resources to prepare them to attend four-year institutions. The study was published in The Review of Higher Education. The study was a collaboration of researchers from the University of Georgia, North Carolina State University and RTI International, a non-profit research and technical company in Durham, N.C.
During the 2012-13 school year, 80 percent of Central students were African American and the school had a 79 percent graduation rate—84 percent for African Americans, says the study. Also, 82 percent of students received free or reduced lunches and the county had a median family income of $34,000, with 25 percent of the population living below the poverty level, and only 20 percent of adults had a college degree.
Study participants expressed concern about going to a four-year school because many had never been far from home before, they were worried about how they would pay for college and who would look after impoverished relatives. Those who visited universities said they saw a lack of African Americans on campus.
Students also showed a lack of knowledge about the costs of college (one thought it costs $40,000-$60,000 a year) and had little understanding about the workings of grants, scholarships and other financial aid. They also voiced concern about academic preparedness, with Central not offering advanced-placement classes.
"The rural environment shaped students’ perspectives on career and higher education opportunities available to them," researchers wrote. "Regardless of the student participants’ career aspirations, they believed there were limited opportunities available in their community to pursue their aspirations. These perceptions of limited opportunities were embedded in the economic characteristics of the county where Central High School is located. Many students perceived the fast food industry and retail industry (small-box and large-box retail stores) to be the dominant industries in their community, which shaped students’ career knowledge of opportunities available in the community."