Date of Award

Summer 7-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Bishop

Second Advisor

Dr. Sherry DeVore

Third Advisor

Dr. Doug Hayter


First-generation, low-income, and disabled college students are an increasing population (Tinto, 2012). TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) is an academic support program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that seeks to support this demographic to overcome challenges and thrive while in college (Coffman, 2011). Utilizing a mixed methods approach, the goal of this study was to examine the student success outcomes of retention and grade point average of TRIO SSS students compared to students who are similarly qualified but not being served by TRIO SSS at a Midwestern, large, public, four-year institution. In addition, TRIO SSS seniors were interviewed during focus groups. During focus groups, students reflected on their overall programmatic experiences in TRIO. A total of 1,913 students were involved in the quantitative analysis, and 16 TRIO seniors participated in the focus groups. Data analysis resulted in the emergence of four major themes: (a) relationships, (b) loyalty, (c) trust, and (d) transformation. These findings were consistent with other studies conducted within the scope of Tinto’s (2012) theory of student retention. All of the interview participants identified a profound and personal emotional connection to their time in TRIO SSS. This study was significant due to the lack of previous research that couples the experiences of students with quantitative data. Implications for practice included, but were not limited to, stronger support for first-generation students through a range of campus partnerships and initiatives. Recommendations for future research included expanding this study by examining TRIO programs at other institutions and gathering perceptions of first generation students through multiple focus groups.


Copyright 2015