Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
The benefits of involvement in work-integrated learning programs, also known as cooperative education have been touted since inception in 1899. Unfortunately, little research has been published related to the factors that impact enrollment within these programs. The purpose of this study was to examine the factors that have influenced the historically low enrollment numbers within the cooperative education program at a public community college located in the southeastern United States. Guided by Kolb's experiential learning theory, the conceptual framework provides a direct link between classroom learning and work experience. A qualitative phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of 11 cooperative education program alumni. Data were collected via a semistructured interview process using open-ended questions during focus groups. The data collected were transcribed for coding and triangulated for validation by comparing the multiple data results. Through data analysis, 3 fundamental themes emerged: recruitment, communication, and experiences. A 4th theme, website development, was highlighted within the policy development as an essential part of the initial 3 themes. The results may allow administrators to gain insight into how cooperative education enrollment numbers are being influenced by specific variables within the classroom, college, industry, community, program marketing, and program experiences. The implications for social change reach far beyond the study site. Through the determination of factors that impact enrollment numbers within a specific program, other institutions may be provided guidance in how to address the enrollment issues within the institutions' programs.