College access programs in Montana: The economy, perceptions, and reach
Increased emphasis on a college degree in the 21st century has led to a commensurate attention to prepare students and adults to access college. The purpose of this research was to build a broader understanding of college access programs (CAPs) in the context of the Montana economy, and discover perceptions from key higher education stakeholders (students, parents, and educators) and the sponsors of college access programs. By connecting the dots between Montana economic needs and perceptions, higher quality decisions can be made to include evaluating the need, the quality, the reach, and how to measure CAP performance. Beneficiaries include students, parents, educators, and program sponsors, and potentially from a long-term view, all citizens of Montana. We applied a mixed methods research approach, across three interrelated sub studies, to explore Montana economic trends, higher education stakeholder perceptions, and to update the 2006 Gap Analysis. In Part I to examine the state of the Montana economy related to higher education, we conducted a review of existing literature. In Part II, we assessed stakeholder perceptions related to CAP needs and sufficiency. Finally, in Part III, we conducted a Gap Analysis, comparing present CAP outreach with a survey conducted in 2006.