Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Barbara Burch (Director), Alex Poole, Ric Keaster

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


The Saudi Arabian Government’s establishment of the multi-billion dollar King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP), which sends students abroad for language training and university study, is responsible for tens of thousands of Saudi men studying in the United States. With the extension of the program through 2020, it is critical that education leaders in higher education and stakeholders at all levels understand the challenges and opportunities presented by this group increasingly populating American classrooms. Several studies have been conducted on international students in the U.S. over the years with just a few focusing on Saudi students specifically. There is a need for research that seeks to understand Saudi students in the U.S. now that the scholarship program has matured several years. The goals of this grounded theory study were to ascertain the rationale Saudi men in the KASP use to elect to study in the United States, how their experiences studying in the United States have affected their perceptions and aligned with their expectations, and to determine if the experiences and changes in beliefs and perceptions are aligned with the Saudi government’s stated goals for the scholarship program. This study utilized a qualitative, grounded theory approach in order to ascertain the pertinent information related to Saudi students studying in the United States. Twelve Saudi men agreed to participate, and each of them ultimately participated in an hour-long, face-to-face interview. Five key patterns were identified from the research and interviews, and each of these patterns had 3-4 themes for a total of 17 themes. The patterns and themes focused on the rationale for Saudi men studying in the United States and the special issues presented by the KASP when it comes to choosing to study abroad. The study also reveals a considerable amount of understanding the men are gaining about their own culture as a result of study in the United States, the academic challenges due to a lack of preparation, particularly in reading and writing, and some concerns Saudi men have about the outcomes of the KASP.


Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Higher Education | International and Comparative Education