Date of Award

Spring 4-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Shane Williamson

Second Advisor

Dr. Celestine Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. John Oldani

Abstract

This qualitative study examined first generation college students who persisted towards completing baccalaureate degrees with and without the assistance of TRIO, a federally funded program that assisted first-generation college students with obtaining baccalaureate degree. The researcher gathered empirical data through conducting semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with 20 first-generation students from two universities who were beyond their first year of college and possessed a 2.0 or higher grade point average (GPA). Interviews were retrospective, as all students were upper-class college students who completed at least one year of college at one of two four-year universities. It was important to the study design to understand the challenges and perspectives of first-generation students who defied the odds of persisting beyond their first year of college. The researcher interviewed an equal number of participants from each respective university. While one of the subgroups was involved with TRIO, student support services were not available at the university for those in the second subgroup. Fifty-five percent of those interviewed were African American, while 40% were White, and 5% were Hispanic. Additionally, of those first-generation students interviewed, 35% were sophomores, 45% were juniors, and 20% were in their senior year of college. These demographics provide a snapshot of the diversity within the population that existed among the generational cohorts interviewed. Various themes emerged regarding the challenges and perceptions of first generation college students that included family support, college affordability, socialization, academic rigor, and mentorship. Further, these findings suggested that this generational cohort of first-generation students shared similar challenges and iv perspectives as they persisted towards completing baccalaureate degrees. Data indicated that involvement in programs such as TRIO seemed to assist participants with progression through college life by providing mentorship, book stipends, and grants, as well as opportunities to fellowship with other success-driven, first-generation college students. It is important for colleges and universities to understand the perceptions of first generation college students persisting beyond their first year of college. With this information, colleges and universities alike can make sure to take appropriate measures of providing the necessary tools to help first-generation college students complete degrees of higher education, particularly baccalaureate degrees. Keywords: first-generation college student, persisting, low income, and academic success

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