Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The School of Education

Document Type



ABSTRACT In post-secondary education, degree attainment for first-generation college students (FGCS) is essential. The purpose of this explanatory sequential mixed-methods study is to explore the first-generation college student's persistence from their first year to the second year at a private or public post-secondary institution. The second purpose is to investigate whether the GEAR UP Services program impacted FGCS persistence at these institutions. Social capital theory and self-determination theory served as a foundation of the study. These theories are linked to the social interaction and behavior that leads to motivation, commitment, and relationships. Previous research suggests that college persistence correlates with utilizing social networks, resources, and relationships. Post-secondary education is one of the growing trends in first-generation students attending college despite their family background. With the right motivation and external drives, first-generation students are pulled towards the end goal of obtaining a post-secondary degree. By increasing on-campus services and awareness of access, support, and motivation, first- generation college students can succeed in their post-secondary endeavors. Student support service programs, GEAR UP Services program, provide college preparatory courses, financial aid information, and academic/social support to help facilitate the adjustments FGCS needs for college persistence. This research study investigated the impact that GEAR UP Services, an intervention grant, had on FGCS college persistence. The findings of this mixed-method research study revealed statistically significant persistence factors, participant experiences, shared trends, and challenges FGCS encountered in their post-secondary journey. The statistical findings investigated the relationship between college persistence, demographic, and academic variables of 2018 graduates who participated in

viii the GEAR UP Services program. Logistical regression statistical findings revealed that students who were females with higher GPAs were, were more likely to achieve college persistence. The point Biserial correlation findings indicated that GPA, level of participation, and college retention rates were correlated with college persistence. The open-ended interview questions were analyzed using a basic interpretive and descriptive qualitative research method. Additionally, the findings of this analysis complemented the logistical regression and the point biserial results of FGCS persistence experience.



Committee Chair

MacGregor, Susan K.