The literature on community colleges is overwhelmed by outcomes-oriented data concerning retention, attrition, and graduation rates. What we lack is a more complete understanding of why community college students choose to enroll in the first place. The current study seeks to fill this gap. Through a series of semi-structured interviews, students reported feeling motivated to attend community college by their desires to reconstruct themselves as scholars, make proud their families and communities of origin, achieve social mobility, and develop a more accomplished and purposeful sense of self. Implications of these findings for teaching and learning are discussed, as is the importance of using identity as a lens for understanding students’ motivations.


Community College, Narratives, Qualitative Research, Developmental Education, Aspirations, Goals, Motivations, Identity

Author Bio(s)

Jason VanOra is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Kingsborough Community College and an affiliated faculty member in the Critical Social/Personality Psychology Doctoral Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. His research addresses the ways in which narratives can be used to reveal both individual and collective struggles, resiliency, identity, and “wisdoms” among persons living within conditions of both marginalization and hope. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Jason.vanora@kbcc.cuny.edu.


I would like to acknowledge the support of Dr. Emily Schnee for her participation in the current project.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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