The General Equivalency Diploma offers someone a second chance to earn their high school diploma. While millions have taken the exam to earn a GED, this still remains an underrepresented group in research, especially in rural areas. This thesis focuses on how the circumstances related to living in a rural area affect the educational attainment of rural GED students. The paper begins by examining other research to give background information on five key areas: rural economy, rural culture, rural education, reasons for leaving school, and the financial impact of a GED. It then moves into the theoretical frameworks of Paul Willis (Social Reproduction Theory), Pierre Bourdieu (Cultural Reproduction Theory, capital, habitus, and structure), and Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis (Correspondence Theory). These examine the structural barriers that are often present in the educational system, which prevent low-income from high-paying employment and opportunities. Other concepts used include Philippe Bourgois' use of oppositional identity, agency (from Pierre Bourdieu's perspective), and human capital theory to demonstrate how those barriers can be overcome. Research was then conducted for this project was conducted using participant observation in a GED classroom and interviews with students, a tutor, and staff members. The data collection revealed that reasons for leaving school are peer related, school related, and family related. Another finding focuses on reasons for re-attending classes to earn a GED. This revealed that people work towards a GED because of receiving support from friends, family, and community, as well as wanting more education, employment, and to improve their lives. Experiences within the GED program show how these students create a sense of community in the classroom with the teachers and tutors to make a more positive learning environment. They also have a support and motivation system in the program. Each student guides themselves and others through the process, with the help of the teachers, tutors, and the coordinator. The pedagogical strategies used in the classroom allows for more individualized learning by using many different teaching techniques. The last finding examines the perspectives of two teachers and the coordinator of the adult education program to show their views related to why students leave school, why they come back, and experiences they have seen students have within the GED program.


Gunn, Ramond


Sociology and Anthropology


Educational Sociology | Rural Sociology


ged, rural, education, adult education, united states

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2011 Kendra Spergel