Author

Matthew Daily

Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.

Department

Education

First Advisor

Nicole Ralston

Second Advisor

Rebecca Smith

Third Advisor

Katie Danielson

LC Subjects

First-generation college students; Academic achievement—Research; College student development programs; Private universities and colleges--Sociological aspects

Abstract

The purpose of this descriptive study utilizing survey research was to understand student perceptions about how private institutions support the persistence of first-generation college students. First-generation college students refer to those students whose parents or guardians have earned a four-year bachelor’s degree but may have some postsecondary college experience (Center for First-Generation Student Success, 2017). Today, 4.1 million students, or 33% of all students, are considered first-generation, yet only 20% earn a four-year college degree within six years (Center for First-Generation Student Success, 2019). Thus, it is critical to understand the landscape that exists for first-generation college students and what has allowed those that are first-generation to persist successfully at private institutions. Three conceptual frameworks were used to investigate student perceptions: Dr. Vincent Tinto’s (1975) Student Integration Model for Persistence; Dr. Laura Rendón’s (1994) Theory of Validation; and Dr. Tara Yosso’s (2005) Community Cultural Wealth model, which provided an asset-based framework to examine student experiences.

The study investigated third and fourth-year student perceptions (n = 541) at private colleges and universities (n = 34) throughout the United States. Results suggest that programs do influence the academic and social experience of first-generation college students. Findings included 82% indicated participation in some type of first generation program; 95% of students agree that their college or university has supported their efforts to earn a 4-year college degree, whereas 92% of respondents agree that their institution has specific supports and programs for first-generation college students. The most important conclusions of this study include: a) first generation students participate in campus programming at high rates; b) campus programs are impactful to first-generation students; c) Campus programs of various types create meaningful connections for first-generation students; and d) there is scope for improvement in program participation, program awareness, and program offerings.

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