Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



The act of persuasion, specifically in the context of higher education recruiting, lacks both a breadth and depth of research. This could be due to economic trends inevitably promoting college attendance for high school seniors. With the recent influx of both online education, as well as for-profit institutions, there has been a shift in the approach to recruiting potential students to enroll at affiliated institutions each year. This study took a qualitative, grounded theory approach to understand both the intended persuasive strategies conceived by participating four-year Universities in the state of Utah, as well as the actual messages delivered to prospective students. Data were gathered through observation and interviewing. Results showed five themes based on message content: (a) financial value and affordability, (b) academic resilience, (c) engaging student life, (d) optimal location, (e) customer flexibility and personalization, as well as three categories based on message form: (a) narrative, (b) reputational esteem, (c) and fear appeals. The central theoretical idea emerging from the results indicated the narrative paradigm (Fisher, 1984, 1985, 1987) as the theoretical backing for this research, with narratives being the most commonly used and shared strategy by the participating institutions. This study is a preliminary approach to help understand the effectiveness of persuasion tactics in the context of recruiting students to pursue an education at the college level.



Committee Chair

Pecchioni, Loretta