Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



First Advisor

Joseph Zlatic

Second Advisor

Mitch Nasser

Third Advisor

Saint Rice


It is well-known that higher education faces the challenge of declining enrollment, particularly post-COVID. However, there is a population of students that higher education institutions may overlook, returning citizens and ex-offenders. Reintegration is a challenging endeavor for returning citizens and ex-offenders, without regard to the length of incarceration or the circumstances surrounding system-involvement. They face barriers and stigmatization while attempting to achieve some sense of normalization post-incarceration, including the pursuit of higher education. Using mixed methodology, specifically a qualitative case study and descriptive statistics, the extant research examined the college admission process for returning citizens and ex-offenders through the lens of three groups, admissions professionals, residential life employees, and campus safety employees, at a small Midwestern college. The research examined the understanding of the three groups about the college’s admissions policy and process for returning citizens and ex-offenders and their experiences with the admissions process. The research also delved into whether the experiences of the three groups in the admissions process for returning citizens or ex-offenders influenced their perspectives of returning citizens and ex-offenders. Finally, the study examined the differences and similarities between the three groups in their perceptions of returning citizens or ex-offenders admitted to the college. The researcher used NVivo 12, a qualitative data analysis software that facilitates organization and visualization of data, to analyze the interview data vertically and horizontally. Ten themes emerged, leading to the conclusion that admissions professionals, residence life employees, and campus safety employees had varying degrees of knowledge and experience related to the college’s policies and practices about the admission of returning citizens and ex-offenders. Without regard to the level of knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about the policies and practices related to the admission of returning citizens and ex-offenders, the theme of second chances prevailed. The theoretical foundations of the research are university social responsibility, collaborative theory, and critical race theory.


Copyright 2022, Donna Bradley.

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