Date of Award

Summer 7-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Bishop

Second Advisor

Dr. Sherry DeVore

Third Advisor

Dr. Tracy McGrady


Low-income, first-generation, urban students are typically underprepared academically for college-level course work and lack knowledge, which most non-first-generation students possess (Ward, Siegel, & Davenport, 2012). Success in higher education depends on students effectively navigating and transitioning into an institution (Pike & Kuh, 2005). Community-based nonprofit organizations support first-generation, low income, urban students as they navigate through the provision of college access/readiness programs (Smith, Benitez, Carter, & Melnick, 2012). The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of one community-based college access program on the persistence, retention, and matriculation of its participants. Quantitative data included retention rates and grade point averages of 39 students who participated in the program and 82 similarly qualified non-participants. The retention rate for students participating in the program was 95% and the GPA was 2.88, as compared to a 79% retention rate and a GPA of 2.40 for similarly qualified students. The difference in both retention rates and GPA was statistically significant. For the qualitative portion of the study, focus groups were conducted to understand perceptions of 15 participants who were first-generation, low income, urban students. Their responses were viewed through the lens of Schlossberg's (1989) theory of marginality and mattering. In addition, staff members who have worked longitudinally with students were interviewed. Three themes emerged: relationships, intentional experiences, and self-advocacy. Based on the findings from this study, college access programs should design their curriculum and experiences around the relationship between students and staff members.


Copyright 2017