Shawn Adkins

Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Jared Schlenker


The increased competitive nature of higher education institutions has caused many small private liberal arts colleges/universities to struggle economically. The cost of keeping such institutions viable is high. Many institutions have had to raise tuitions rates, which resulted in decreased enrollment numbers. As a result, many institutions have been struggling; some even closing. The influences and interferences of college choice among current college-aged students (known as Generation Z) were reviewed with recruitment professionals from a handful of such institutions for this qualitative, constructivist grounded theory study. Data was collected by reviewing relevant research literature and conducting interviews with participants from five different small private liberal arts colleges. Findings were analyzed using open and refocused coding to construct discovered themes into theory in an effort to generate suggestions to improve the financial stability of such institutions in the coming decade as they face a period of decreasing enrollment. Six distinct themes emerged to help address the problem including the implementation of marketing partner and other external relationships, acquiring internal partners who can relate to Generation Z, discovering ways to communicate and foster personalized connections with this current generation, considering parent/guardian relationships, the impact of cost and financial aid, and the value of the overall college experience. The goal was to provide guidance and ignite conversations that might solve this problem for these institutions of higher learning.