Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

David Shellman

Abstract

Against all odds, first-generation college students continue to enroll in postsecondary schools with aspirations of obtaining a bachelor's degree. Unfortunately, many have not successfully reached their goal, which in turn has affected retention rates of colleges and universities. There are programs that provide academic support and advising to increase retention for first-generation college students. However, there are academic and nonacademic needs of the students that colleges, universities, and public policymakers have neglected to address.

The purpose of this research study was to determine from 168 first-generation college students at 5 participating institutions, what factors impacted their enrollment after their first year in college. Tinto's Interactionalist Theory (1982) served as the study's theoretical foundation. Findings warranted the following conclusions: the academic factors that motivated first-generation students to enroll the subsequent year were having a positive rapport with faculty and staff, personal goal of degree completion, and support services provided by the institution. Data analysis revealed that the non-academic factors that motivated first-generation students to enroll the subsequent year were: family, peers, and a sense of community on campus.

This research provides data for Student Support Services (SSS) programs in reference to services their eligible freshman participants deem necessary in order to enroll in college the subsequent year. This information can be used by the programs to evaluate the services currently provided to participants and to focus and build upon those areas most addressed by the students in this study. Public and private postsecondary institutions alike may also use the findings to further enhance current support programs as well as develop new initiatives to work towards increasing their student retention rates, while parents, high schools, and pre-college programs can use the information gathered to assist with preparing students for college, thus providing measures working toward increasing college enrollment, attrition, and graduation rates.

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