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Current Projects

The State of the Land-Grant Universities and Colleges

2018 Annual Report of the Center for the Future of Land-Grant Education at West Virginia University 

Sorber, N. M., McHenry-Sorber, Hughes, R., Ballester, L, et al.   

The researchers at the Land-Grant Center prepare a national report every year entitled The State of the Land-Grant Universities and Colleges . This report is disseminated to higher education scholars, policymakers, and college and university leaders. The State of the Land-Grant Universities and Colleges compiles data across multiple domains, and provides analyses of trends in land-grant education. The report includes sections on state and federal policy, public funding and tuition, engagement and extension, university research, land-grant access, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, economic engagement and innovation, teaching and learning, and diversity. The next edition of The State of the Land-Grant Universities and Colleges will be available Summer 2018.  


An Investigation of Relationships Between College Match Quality and Students' Degree Completion and Initial Earnings

Rodney Hughes, West Virginia University
Andrew Koricich, Appalachian State University

View Paper

We are beginning qualitative data collection and completing the quantitative data plan for this project. 


Appalachian Access Project

Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber, Dr. Rodney Hughes, Ms. Katlin Swisher
West Virginia University

In this research, we are investigating barriers and supports to postsecondary aspirations and access for Appalachians in West Virginia. This will be accomplished through quantitative data analysis of HEPC data using statewide and county-level data and qualitative data collection and analysis through focus groups with high school juniors and seniors (separated by gender) and individual interviews with high school counselors; our plan is to conduct a set of these in each RESA to enable further comparison across regions.


Appalachian Undergraduate Women Project

Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber, Ms. Katlin Swisher
West Virginia University

(Data collection almost complete--8 interviews completed)

In this research, we are exploring the intersections of gender and place (Appalachia) in influencing the experiences of freshmen women at a large metropolitan institution. Early analysis suggests Appalachian identity is a major influence on their early collegiate experiences, and (closely-related to that place identity) financial aid also plays a significant role in shaping their peer relationships and social experiences. We also see evidence of these participants wanting to be "good girls"--studying hard, not partying, etc.  


Teacher Pathways

Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber, Dr. Rodney Hughes, Dr. Matthew Campbell
West Virginia University

(Spencer Small Grant & WVU Internal Grant submitted, February 2017--Erin & Matt)


Opportunities and Barriers to Postsecondary Access in West Virginia

Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber,  Dr. Rodney Hughes Lorena Ballester, Doctoral Candidate 

West Virginia University 

Opportunities and Barriers to Postsecondary Access in West Virginia Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber, Higher Education Dr. Rodney Hughes, Higher Education Lorena Ballester, Doctoral Candidate Nationally, 69.2 percent of high school completers enrolled in two- or four-year colleges and universities in 2015 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). Forty-four percent of high school completers entered four-year institutions, and 25.2 percent of high school completers entered two-year institutions. Within the state of West Virginia, 54.7 percent of high school completers enrolled in two- or four-year colleges and universities in 2015; a similar 42.7 percent entered four-year institutions, and 12.2 percent entered two-year institutions (“West Virginia College Going Rates by County and High School”, 2015). Overall college enrollment rates (into two- and four-year institutions) for individual counties in West Virginia ranged from 27.2 percent to 70.8 percent in 2015. Over the last five available years, the national college enrollment rate for high school completers has risen slightly, from 68.2 percent in 2011 to 69.2 percent in 2015 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016); the West Virginia college enrollment rate fell from 57.9 percent in 2011 to 54.7 over the same period (“West Virginia College Going Rates by County and High School”, 2011). The state ranks 46th in college attainment across groups (West & Odum, 2016) and 51st, behind all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percent of women (17.8) with bachelor’s degrees (Hess, Hegewisch, & Williams, 2013). The purpose of this mixed methods study is to understand barriers and supports to postsecondary aspirations and access for Appalachian students in West Virginia. The research involves multiple components: (1) interviews with freshmen women, to understand at an in-depth level, their experiences in the application and transition process to college; (2) focus groups with high school juniors and seniors and interviews with guidance counselors to better understand college expectations, aspirations, influences, and resources available to students across the state; (3) analysis of enrollment, college matching, and completion data from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and link these data to workforce data and economic returns by major.