1 PICTURE THIS: PORTRAITS OF (BE)LONGING AND FIRST GENERATION LOW POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTION By M ARY ANNE PRIMACK A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNI VERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 Mary Anne Primack
3 To my Mom my first example of a social justice acti vist. I have the utmost respect for your tireless contributions to your family and to your community. I could not have done this without you.
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank my parents, who continue to advocate for education and equity. I would also like to thank Dr. Ponjuan, a scholar, a practitioner, and a source of inspiration. To all of my committee members: Your patience, guidance, and willingness to ask tough questions led to un expected growth and confidence.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION, RATIONALE AND PURPOSE OF STUDY ................................ 10 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 10 Unique Characteristics of First generation Students ................................ ............... 11 Unique Characteristics of Low Income Students ................................ .................... 12 FGLI Student Characteristics ................................ ................................ .................. 13 Academic and Social Challenges for FGLI College Students ................................ 14 Rationale to Explore FGLI Postsecondary Out comes ................................ ............. 16 The Value of Postsecondary Education for FGLI students ................................ ..... 17 The Value of FGLI Postsecondary Degree Attainment for Society ......................... 17 Purpose of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 19 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................... 20 Scope of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ 21 Implications of the Study ................................ ................................ ......................... 22 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 23 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ................................ ................................ ............ 24 Student Engagement ................................ ................................ .............................. 26 Student Involvement ................................ ................................ ............................... 27 Student Integration ................................ ................................ ................................ 28 Academic Preparation ................................ ................................ ............................. 30 College Choice ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 31 Transition to College ................................ ................................ ............................... 34 Social and Cultural Transitions ................................ ................................ ......... 34 Family Dynamics ................................ ................................ .............................. 35 Institutional Interventions ................................ ................................ ........................ 37 Orientation Programs ................................ ................................ ....................... 37 Financial Aid ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 39 Persistence in College ................................ ................................ ............................ 45 Campus Climate ................................ ................................ ............................... 45 Faculty Practice and Pedagogy ................................ ................................ ........ 47 Learning Communities ................................ ................................ ..................... 48 Academic Advising ................................ ................................ ........................... 50 Implications of Institutional Inter ventions ................................ ................................ 51 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ........................... 53 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 58
6 3 RESEARCH METHODS AND DESIGN ................................ ................................ .. 60 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................... 60 Qualitative Methods in Educational Research ................................ ........................ 61 Institutional Context for the Study ................................ ................................ ........... 62 Sample ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 65 Profiles of Study Participants ................................ ................................ .................. 68 Angel ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 68 Anna ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 69 Grace ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 70 Alicia ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 71 Franko ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 72 Kermit ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 72 Analytic Method ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 73 Visual Methods in Educational Research ................................ ................................ 74 Photo Elicitation ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 75 Participant driven Photo Elicitation Interviews ................................ ........................ 78 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 80 PDPE Protocol ................................ ................................ ................................ 81 Interview Guide ................................ ................................ ................................ 82 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 84 Interview Transcription ................................ ................................ ............................ 85 Interview Coding ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 86 Positionality, Bias ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 88 Member Checking ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 90 Trustworthiness ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 91 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 92 Benefits for Participants ................................ ................................ .......................... 93 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 94 4 FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 95 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................... 95 Transition ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 98 Family Dynamics ................................ ................................ .............................. 98 Reliance on High School Resources and Challenges Associated with Being a FGLI Student ................................ ................................ ............................ 104 Financial Constraint and Challenges Associated with Being a First Generation Low Income Student ................................ ................................ 108 Persistence ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 114 Partnership Program Support for FGLI Students ................................ ............ 114 Peer Ne twork Support ................................ ................................ .................... 119 Sense of Belonging ................................ ................................ ............................... 123 Sense of Belonging for FGLI students ................................ ............................ 123 Sense of Belonging, Identity and Culture ................................ ....................... 124 Sense of Belo nging and Support ................................ ................................ .... 126 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ 127
7 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ...... 129 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................. 129 Summary of Findings ................................ ................................ ............................ 131 Family Dynamics ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 132 Reliance on High School Resources for College Enrollment and Participation ..... 137 Partnership Program Support for FGLI Students ................................ .................. 140 Peer Network ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 142 Selected Institutional Initiatives: Orientation Programs and Financial Aid ............. 144 Orientation Programs ................................ ................................ ..................... 144 Financial Aid ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 145 Sense of Belonging ................................ ................................ ............................... 149 Recommendations for Practitioners ................................ ................................ ...... 15 3 Practitioner support for Parent and Family Involvement ................................ 153 Practitioner support for K 12 Collaboration and College Outreach Initiatives 154 Practitioner Support for the Development of Peer Networks among Students ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 156 Limitations and Directions for Future Research ................................ .................... 157 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 159 APPENDIX: DEDOOSE CODE APPLICATION EXAMPLE ................................ ........ 162 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 163 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 177
8 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education PICTURE THIS: PORTRAITS OF (BE)LONGING AND FIRST GENERATION LOW POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTION By Mary Anne Primack May 2013 Chai r: Dale Campbell Cochair: Luis Ponjuan Major: Educational Leadership Among college students nationwide, first generation low income (FGLI) college important factor in the academic and social success of college students and further examination of this factor is needed to understand the transition and persistence experiences of FGLI students. This dissertation focuses on the perspectives of FGLI college students enrolled in a large, public, four year, PWI. Participants involved in this qualitative study describe and document their transition to, and persistence in, college through photo elicitation interviews. Through the presentation of interview data and participant photogr aphs, family dynamics as well as financial constraints are discussed, sense of belonging to the campus community is examined. This study has implications for those who are c oncerned with the success of FGLI students, practitioners who provide direct services to FGLI students or other underrepresented students, students interested in taking an active role in assisting in the transition and retention of FGLI
9 students, and those who are concerned with postsecondary transition and retention issues related to FGLI students and other underrepresented student populations.
10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION, RATIONALE AND PURPOSE OF STUDY Introduc tion According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2008, 56% of children living in the United States ages 6 through 18 years resided with parents or guardians whose highest level of educational attainment was a high school diploma or less. That same year, out of the 35.2 million young adults, 15.5 million were from families living at, near, or below the poverty level (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008a). Despite these indicators that often are associated with disadvantage and deficit in education an d economic standards, many of these young people demonstrate academic resilience, earn a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification and enter postsecondary education. For the purpose of this study, I will refer to these students as first generatio n low income (FGLI) college students. While some form of postsecondary education is accessible to U.S. citizens now more than ever before, not all students are equally likely to transition to college and to persist to degree attainment (Pike & Kuh, 2005). The segment of FGLI college students who persist beyond the first year of college and graduate are disproportionately lower than that of continuing generation students (Chen, 2005; Ishitani, 2006). In particular, recent research highlights how low socio economic status can influence the educational success of first generation students (Harper, Patton & Wooden, 2009; Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Ostrove & Long, 2007; Smith, 2011; Tierney & Hagedorn, 2002). Current inequities in educational attainment suggest that the problems of access and achievement in postsecondary education are influenced by income disparities, and other factors (e.g. race, immigration status), and additional
11 research is needed to understand this complex educational issue (Tierney & Haged orn, 2002; Bowen, Kurtzwell & Tobin, 2005; Perna, 200 6 ). While historically underserved students include low income students who are from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, by no means does this suggest that these groups are only racial/ethnic minorit ies. Although not all economically challenged students are educationally challenged and not all those who come from families with lower levels of formal education are economically challenged, this collective group of FGLI students faces similar obstacles in gaining access to college, report similar kinds of experiences and levels of involvement while enrolled, and have similar outcomes after college (Walpole, 2007). In fact, we need to examine FGLI students as a heterogeneous group that reflects students from low income families from all racial/ethnic groups to gain a detailed understanding of their common challenges. SES, low income, first generation, and working class students clearly overlaps conceptually tically, may provide new insights that will assist policymakers and practitioners. Unique Characteristics of First generation Students The small amount of research that does focus solely on first generation college students typically examines statistical r elations with other important variables related to college success (Orb, 2004). For instance, in their extensive study of first generation college students, Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, and Terenzini (2004) found that these students (as compared to studen ts whose parents had some college experience),
12 attended less selective institutions and had lower cumulative grade point averages. Additionally, first generation college students perceived the college environment as less supportive and were found to be le ss engaged overall, in that they were less likely to participate in an honors program or in student organizations or interact with other students or faculty to the same extent as continuing generation students (Pascarella et al., 2004; Pike & Kuh, 2005; Te renzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella, & Nora, 1996). corroborated by more recent longitudinal research conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (1998), whi ch found that first generation college students are less likely to complete any degree, even when controlling for age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (NCES, 1998). Moreover, Warburton, Bugarin, and Nunez (2001) observed that first generation college students are less likely to remain enrolled in a four Bowen, Chingos and McPherson (2009) among first generation college students in graduated in more than four years than in four Unique Characteristics of Low Income Students Socio economics plays a significant role in the ability to go to college and research indicates that students from low families are disadv antaged in college preparation, application, enrollment, and degree completion (Cabrera, Burkum & LaNasa, 2005; Cabrera & LaNasa, 2001; Walpole, 2007). Low SES students disproportionately attend high schools that do not focus on preparing students for col lege and have fewer counseling resources (Walpole, 2007). In addition, low SES and low income students are more likely than high SES and high income students to lack
13 access to rigorous course work and to be tracked away from honors and advanced placement c ourses (Cabrera and La Nasa, 2000a; Perna, 2006; Terenzini et al., 2001). According to Thayer (2000), family income is the greatest predictor of college students from fa milies in the bottom income quartile, top income students have high school graduation rates that are 23 percentage points higher, college enrollment rates Even amo ng students who make the transition to four year institutions, Bowen et al., (2009) state that low income students are substantially less likely than high income SES students are not only less li kely to enroll in and graduate from college, they also take additional time to complete their studies. FGLI Student Characteristics There is a large body of research literature confirming that characteristics such as parental education and socioeconomic st atus are associated with educational outcomes (Oseguera & Astin 2004; Bergerson, 2009, Bowen, Chingos & McPherson, 2009; Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Pike & Kuh, 2005). For example, Pike, Hansen, & Lin, (2011) report while their preliminary analyses found tha generation status and low income status were negatively related to grades, the combination of first generation and low The extant research on social class and first generation student status has laid extremely important groundwork, yet the emphasis has not been on examining the FGLI college student experiences that mediate the relation between those characteristics and FGLI college student outcomes (Langout, Drake, and Rosselli 2009). Understanding
14 linked to the structures and cultures of higher education (Langout, Drake, and Rosselli, 2009, p. 167). In short, both paren tal education and family income are strongly associated with graduation rates even when considered simultaneously and after controlling for related differences in student characteristics, particularly academic preparation (Bowen et al., 2009). Such an unde rstanding is particularly important to higher education scholars, researchers, and practitioners (Bowen et al., 2005). Academic and Social Challenges for FGLI College Students The research literature on FGLI college students consistently demonstrates that these students are at a disadvantage with regard to preparation for the rigor and culture of postsecondary institutions (Bowen et al., 2005; Thayer, 2000; Tinto, 2006; Watt, & Lozano, 2007). Compared to peers, these students tend to be not only academically underprepared but also often lack knowledge of college admissions and financial aid processes, and due to their differential access to resources students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds cannot engage in the college choice process in the same ways as their middle and upper income peers (Bergerson, 2009). These students may also lack support or the intergenerational benefits of information about college from wit hin their families since knowledge about the college going experience is likely limited (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Perna, 200 6 ). These limited experiences usually result in creating less than optimal learning environments for incoming FGLI students. Once F GLI college students enroll, they are more likely to live off campus, commute to campus, work part time jobs while enrolled, and enroll on a part time basis
15 (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Pascarella et al., 2004; Pike & Kuh, 2005). Compared to their peers, FGL I college students participate less in co curricular activities, are less likely to develop strong relationships with other students and are less likely to engage with faculty (Kim & Sax, 2009; Pascarella et al., 2004; Pike & Kuh, 2005). Collectively, the se characteristics play a role in shaping the postsecondary experiences of FGLI college students and may impede them from being academically and socially successful. Overwhelmingly, FGLI students start college underprepared, enroll in more remedial colleg e coursework than their continuing generation peers, have difficulty in selecting an academic major, have lower first year grade averages, lag behind in credit accumulation, and have lower graduation rates ( Chen 2005; Overton Healy, 2010). These findin that relate to their transition and persistence, such as the quality of support services (Hurtado & Carter). Bowman, Hurtado, Locks, and Oseguera (2008) have suggested that those concerned with social equity in higher education need to continue to work on gaining a better insight into the transition and retention of FGLI postsecondary students particularly on the challenges these students may face at the 4 year instit utions both in engagement, involvement and academic and social integration experiences on campus
16 ( Bowma n ditional of their transition to and persistence in college and their sense of belonging. Therefore, further examination about how a sense of belonging facilitates college transitions and long term success in college is critical in understanding how to improve transition into and graduation from college for FGLI students (Bowen et al., 2005; Bowma n et al., 2008; Oliv i a, 2004; Perna, 2006). Rationale to Explore FGLI Postsec ondary Outcomes As argued by university presidents both past and present (e.g. William G. Bowen, past president of Princeton University and Bernard J. Machen, current president of the University of Florida), by scholars (Bowen, Chingos & McPherson, 2009; P erna, 200 6 ) and demonstrated in prior descriptive reports ( National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2002), a variety of economic and non economic benefits are s greater likelihood of health insurance coverage, lower likelihood of receiving public assistance, greater job satisfaction, and greater perceived connection between hig her education and employment 6 p. 44). Attaining a non at tendance at plays and concerts, and greater civic involvement as measured by both 6 p.
17 44). The benefits of a completed postsecondary education make the lack of completion co stly for individuals, families, communities, and society (Eitel & Martin, 2009). The Value of Postsecondary Education for FGLI students Researchers argue the many ways in which higher levels of educational attainment produce economic returns for an indivi dual, but also non economic benefits in the realms of cognitive learning, emotional and moral development, family life, citizenship, consumer behavior, leisure, and health for an individual (Bowen et al., 2009). The research literature indicates that ther e are important differences between continuing generation students and FGLI students with regard to persistence characteristics, behaviors and experiences (Lofink & Paulsen, 2005). If FGLI students attend college, many times they leave with debt and no deg ree (Howard & Levine, 2004). Enrolling in postsecondary education and leaving without a degree has significant negative consequences (e.g. monetary, occupational) as students who fail to graduate from a four year college are not as likely to have the same favorable opportunities (Perna, 2006). For high school graduates without postsecondary education, the job market has witnessed a decline in wages and the necessity of pass ing minimal competency tests as a condition for being hired (Haycock & Huang, 2001). The Value of FGLI Postsecondary Degree Attainment for Society The value of higher education is evidenced in a form of governmental and societal investment. According to Leonhardt (2009), a college education helps society
18 graduates compared to individuals with some college ($45,221 as opposed to $31, 936) helps federal and state governments to increase their tax revenues as the number of college educated individuals increases (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006a). This disparity affects many given that 19.5% of the p opulation of individuals in the United States who are 25 years and older attempted college but did not obtain a degree (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006b). In budget materials related to higher education which were released by the White House and which presented p.1). However, economic gains are not t he only reason to assert the significance of increasing levels of educational attainment for the betterment of society. According to all kinds, which in turn have multiple long reverberates through societies on multiple levels, correlating with, if not causing, more crime, less happiness, poorer mental and physical health, less racial harmony, and less 23). Not surprisingly, according to Gudrais there in health, in wealth, in education is wo 23). The struggle to improve
19 four year universities (Bowen et al., 2009, p. 10). According to Walpole (2007), not only Purpose of Study om ission of sense of belonging from most research on college student transition and persistence. Since then, a handful of studies examining sense of belonging in the university context have emerged, ( Bowma n et al., 2008; Hausmann et al., 2009; Ostrove & Lon g, 2007) however more research is necessary to clarify the role of sense of belonging in student transition and persistence. The current study investigates the significance of one factor that, although not traditionally emphasized in prevailing models of t he college student experience, has recently been identified as an area sense of belonging to their college or university (Bowen et al., 2005 Bowman, 2008 ; Hausmann et al., 2009;; Olivia 2004; Ostrove & Long, 2007; Perna, 2006). This study extends the literature by examining the perspectives of FGLI college students and their transition to and persistence in college. Specifically, this qualitative study seeks to cont ribute to an understanding of how those students document, through participant driven photo elicitation, their transitions to the university environment and how they have persisted in their academic pursuits, given the obstacles recognized by college acces s and retention scholars e.g., Oliv i a (2004) and Perna (2006). Towards that end, this qualitative inquiry relies on the visual method of participant driven photo elicitation (PDPE) research. This method is based on the premise that using photographic mater ials during the interview process can increase the
20 their memory recall, and enable them to provide more nuanced responses. In this study, the participants appeared to find the approach provided them with an opportunity to reflect, recollect, and represent their experiences. These elements of the photo elicitation approach can help the researcher create better interpretations of participant observations (Birnbaum, 2009 ). Research Questions The qualitative research approach of PDPE will address the research questions: (1) How do FGLI undergraduate students document their transition into and persistence in a four year higher education institution? (2) how do FGLI undergr aduate students perceive their educational and social experiences in this institution? (3) to what factors do FGLI students attribute to their college aspiration, transition and persistence? Ostrove and Long (2007) suggest that there are many ways in whic h people derive a sense of belonging, and multiple dimensions along which belonging can be structured. In their study of low income college students the researchers examined how social class impacted persistence in college through a sense of belonging. Ot her researchers have utilized this framework to help understand the higher education experiences of underrepresented and marginalized students. In a recent study, Welch educatio nal and social experiences. He found that these students developed a sense of belonging that facilitated their transition and persistence. Also, Winkle Wagner (2009) asserts the need for more research that examines how students from underrepresented grou ps make meaning of their transition and persistence experiences These scholars highlight the importance of exploring how FGLI students develop a sense of belonging on their campus.
21 Scope of the Study There are many populations of students requiring purp oseful interventions to improve their academic outcomes; in this study, however, I will consider college access and success for traditional aged, English speaking FGLI first time and full time enrolled college students due to the volume of research docum enting their decreased academic achievement and other disparities in educational outcomes. In chapter three I provide a summary of the overall background characteristics of participants, followed by a more detailed demographic description of each particip ant I recruited and my relationship to them. All participants were given pseudonyms to protect their identities and to maintain confidentiality throughout the study. According to Bowen et al., (2009), approximately two thirds of all full time students pur year colleges and universities. I located my study within a southeastern research extensive institution because of the prominent role four year institutions play in developing the next generation of skilled leaders an d workers. Additionally according to Bowen et al., (2009), the greater selectivity of flagship universities means a greater concentration of students from privileged backgrounds due to the correlation between academic preparation and family background an d these institutions are typically considered predominantly White institutions (PWI). The positioning of this study in a PWI is significant as overwhelmingly research indicates that elements of the minority FGLI college student experience may inhibit stud Thayer, 2000; Walpole, 2007; Welch, 2009; Winkle Wagner, 2009) Particularly salient for FGLI college students, according to Bowen et al. (2009), is evidence that suggests that having
22 additional family resources matters more in a setting such as a large, public university and less in an intimate setting, such as a private college. In the more intimate settings, the authors speculate tha for students from all backgrounds that family resources help to buy for the more affluent Implications of the Study Research suggests that firs t generation students comprise over 20% of all college students, yet the majority of these students leave postsecondary institutions without ever earning a degree (Chen, 2005). This study provides new insights regarding the transition to and persistence i n college as captured in interviews and images by a small, specific group of FGLI college students. Through photo elicitation and participant narratives, this study will explore first transitions to the university environme nt and how these students have persisted in their academic pursuits. By understanding FGLI student experiences with transition and services professionals, faculty, and oth ers will be better positioned to successfully co create strategies for their college attendance and success (Coffman, 2011). Findings may provide scholars and practitioners greater insight into the postsecondary experiences of first generation low income s tudents and a better understanding of how these students transition to and persist in higher education. Failing to improve the educational attainment for these students decreases the chances of cultivating an educated democratic society.
23 Chapter Summary F irst generation low income (FGLI) college students tend to have a much lower rate of persistence to graduation than do continuing generation students, due to many factors such as parental education and socioeconomic status, and racial and ethnic group. Th ese students are at a disadvantage in their preparation for the rigor and culture of college, and once enrolled tend not to be as involved in the campus activities integra tion of FGLI students on campus, and further examination is needed to understand the transition and persistence experiences of FGLI students. This qualitative study will focus on perspectives of FGLI college students and their transition to and persistenc e in college, as documented through participant driven photo elicitation.
24 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Access to and successful persistence through four year undergraduate programs remains limited for low income students and those who are first i n their family to graduate from college, referred to in the higher education context as first generation low income or FGLI students (Chen, 2005; Stage & Hamrick 2004; Lofink & Paulsen, 2005; Perna, 200 6 ). Although researchers agree that FGLI students are less likely to attend on first generation students in higher education without a clear link to income or socioeconomic status (SES) (Choy et al., 2000; Ishitani, 2006; Pascarella et al., 2004), while others create a composite variable combining the two (Bowen et al., 2005; Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001). However, some scholars disagree ab out whether using a composite measure of SES is appropriate (Walpole, p. 11). Because this study contains terms that have multiple meanings throughout the research literature and within society it is important to explain the intended manner in which certai define terms so that readers can understand the context in which the words are being a first generation college student is defined as a student who is the first in his/her family (mother, father, or siblings) to complete a college education (Payne, 2007; Thayer, income background i s defined by their Pell Grant recipient status as a student who had an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) low enough to qualify the student to receive Pell grant funding.
25 Federal grants such as the Pell grant heavily target the bottom half of the income d istribution (Bowen, Chingos & McPherson, 2009). This means that the Estimated Family Contribution or EFC was at a level to make the student eligible for non repayable federal funds. These first generation low income (FGLI) college students are compared to continuing generation (CG) college students. The purpose of this literature review is to examine research literature on FGLI students to understand their academic and social experiences with transition to and persistence in higher education. Moreover, t his chapter explores notions of student concerns how to improve the transition to and persistence in college for FGLI students. The subsequent sections contain a brief over view of the concepts of engagement, involvement and integration. This is followed by a broad survey of the college student transition and persistence literature with a focus on FGLI students and several associated post secondary practices that have potent ial for shaping the outcomes of these students. Issues concerning the transition to college are considered along with campus based support services such as orientation programs and financial aid. The college student persistence literature is reviewed alo ng with the related institutional initiatives of faculty practice and pedagogy, learning communities, and academic advising. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the theoretical
26 According to Wolf Wendel, Ward & Kinzie (2009), established theories and constructs long associated with student success, such as engagement, involvement and integration inform our understanding of resear ch and practice in higher education, especially with regard to FGLI college student achievement. The authors describe that Wendel et al., p. 407, 2009). An important aspect of the research process is the clarification of terms to form a basis for the discussion of the research. I begin my review of the body of research related to FGLI students with an explanation of some of the associated the ories, concepts and terms. Student E ngagement Student engagement is a concept that involves both what the student does and and effort students put into their studies an d other activities that lead to the experiences Wendel et al., 2009). The other component that can contribute to student engagement is the way in which institutions of higher education allocate their res ources and organize opportunities and services to encourage student participation in and benefit from such activities. According to Wolf p. 413). Engagement is a broad phenomenon that encompasses academic as well as selected non academic and social aspects of the student experience. High levels of student engagement result from a wide range of behaviors and conditions, including
27 purposefu l student faculty interaction, and pedagogical practices such as active and collaborative learning. Engagement also is associated with programmatic interventions such as first year seminars, service learning courses, and learning communities (Kuh, 2008). Additionally the educational environment impacts engagement. Institutional climate and culture that is inclusive and affirming, where expectations for performance are clearly communicated and set at reasonably high levels supports student engagement (Kuh et al., 2005; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Outcomes associated with engagement are persistence and educational attainment (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). While the outcomes of engagement are typically positive for most students (Kuh, 2003), not all st udents equally engage in curricular and co curricular activities. For example, FGLI students, compared to their peers, participate less in co curricular activities ( Pascarella et al., 2004; Pike & Kuh, 2005), are less likely to engage with faculty (Kim & Sax, 2009), and are more likely to engaged and less likely to successfully integrate into the college environment (Pike & Kuh). This is problematic as low levels of student engagement may impede collegiate success whereas high levels of student engagement are necessary for, and contribute to, FGLI student college completion (Kuh et al., 2005, 2007). Student I nvolvement sical and psychological Wendel et al., (2009) this involvement can be both academic and social, though a focus on extracurricular involvement has tended to dominate much of the research. These
28 researchers also argue that involvement accounts for the time and energy that students Activities such as living on campus, working on campus, interacting wi th faculty members, engaging with peers, and being a member of clubs are the types of involvement typically measured under this theory (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Several outcome measures, including satisfaction, grades, retention, and graduation have been linked to extracurricular involvement (Pascarella & Terenzini). However, that academic involvement (e.g., hours spent studying and doing homework, asking questions in class, studying with other students, completing homework assignments) Wendel et al., p. 411). Regrettably, first generation students report studying fewer hours in addition to being less involved in clubs and other social activities, and this lack of involvement has a negative correlation to GPA (Ackerball, 2007). Student I ntegration share the attitudes and beliefs of their peers and faculty and the extent to which students adhere to the structural rules and requirements of the institution the Wendel et al., p. 414, 2009). To create membership in a community, Tinto, (1993) conten ded that individuals need to integrate themselves into the social system. In higher education, integration involves social (personal affiliation) and intellectual (sharing of values) connections (Wolf Wendel et al., 2009). The theory of academic and soc ial integration was developed by Tinto (1993) to explain voluntary student departure from undergraduate institutions. Social and
29 s of interactions with the peer group, faculty, and staff at the institution as well as involvement in extra and co (Wolf experiences in the formal and informal academic system resulting from interactions with faculty, staff, and students inside and outside the classroom settings that enhance the In the study conducted by Prspero & Vohra Gupta (2007), the researchers found that academic integration had the highest positive contribution to academic achievement, more than any other variable among FGLI students. The researchers report that although FGLI students are less likely to participate in extracurr icular college activities, their levels of involvement with their social networks have strong positive effects on critical thinking, preference for higher order cognitive tasks, scientific reasoning, writing skills, sense of control over their own academic success, and educational degree plans. Once students are admitted, institutions can work to ensure that students make a successful transition to the campus academically and socially. Hightower (2007) found that FGLI students who transition to supportive institutional environments with specifically designed programs for them compare equally as well and sometimes outperform their CG peers. Engagement, involvement and integration are key to FGLI th these students to provide services and activities designed to engage them (Walpole, 2007).
30 Academic P reparation achievement, engagement, and their entering expectations and attitudes, a re important predictors of college success (Cole, Kennedy, & Ben Avie, 2009). According to Bowen et al., (2005), the major determinant of variations in educational attainment is the well as all the co curricular factors, that determine how well students partake of available pre collegiate preparatory educational opportunities (Bowen et al. 2005). The research addressing pre college differences between FGLI students and students from more advantaged backgrounds highlights the disparity in academic preparation in high school. According to Acker Ball (2007) the background characteristics of F GLI students are less likely to promote and support higher education aspirations and success. The 0). Additionally, higher academic achievement in high school increases the likelihood of college enrollment and students who are prepared academically have a greater chance of persisting through college (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001). The greatest predictor o f postsecondary educational attainment is participation in an effective academic high school curriculum. The completion of a rigorous curriculum 8). Regrettably, a significant amount of research indicates that generation college students from low income backgrounds are less prepared than
31 1). Economica lly disadvantaged students with undereducated parents are less likely to enroll in and complete a rigorous set of high school courses and more likely to be tracked away from honors and advanced placement courses (Walpole, 2007; Watt). Low SES students disp roportionately attend high schools with more limited resources and less emphasis on preparing students for college (Walpole). Given the obstacles to college preparation for FGLI students, it is reasonable to assume that many of these students reach their s enior year of high school underprepared to participate in the college choice process. College C hoice aspirations, their plans, and the steps taken to actualize those aspirations. Be rgerson (2009) published a comprehensive monograph on college access and success that spans two decades and identifies some of the prominent literature associated with encoura gement, the context in which students grow up, academic ability, schooling experiences, family structure, and information about postsecondary options all components o f family background characteristics that impact educational aspirations. However, parents who themselves do not have a college education may be limited in their ability to adequately promote these aspirations and guide their children in accessing postseco ndary opportunities. These parents may rely on often limited school resources to ensure that their children receive information, guidance and support in the college choice process.
32 Information is a significant element of the college choice process. All pot ential college students require information about college opportunities, yet higher education scholars agree that there is differential access to this information. High school resources are affected by the socioeconomic status of the student population, r esulting (Bergerson, 2009, p. 30). Perna (2006) explains that potential FGLI college students on markets if they are unable to obtain relevant information from their immediate family, school, or resources, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, particularl y those with parents who did not attend or did not graduate from college, cannot engage in the college choice process in the same ways as their peers who come from middle and upper income households with a college educated parent. When FGLI students enr oll in higher education organizations, the type of colleges, some attend highly selective ins titutions, and many attend public organizational structure, and resource base from which to draw, and these differences I student status influences the enting social class differences in
33 they attend, confirms that FGLI students are less likely to attend college and more likely to attend a less selective institution whe n they do enroll in college (Oseguera & Astin 2004; Bowen et al., 2005; Cabrera et al., 2001; Tinto, 200 3 ). The fact that FGLI students disproportionately attend less selective colleges has long term consequences, ion rates and graduate school attendance rates economic resources despite serving a higher proportion of students with greater 2007). Even among students who matriculate at four SES students are substantially less likely than high McPherson, 2009, p. 22). While there are many examples in the research of obstacles that FGLI students face overall, it is also important to keep in mind that these students come to college with a variety of pre ted, interrelated, and synergistic combination of structural individual factors may be, Ostrove and Long (2007) assert that the academic literature on the lives and experiences of working class women and men of all racial backgrounds in the United States who attend college, especially as first generation college students, what they know about pos tsecondary education, have a more difficult transition from high school to college, and are less likely to persist to graduation than their middle class
34 367). It is worth examining the transition to college for FGLI students and how the col Transition to C ollege In addition to typical adjustments while in college, FGLI students may face increased difficulty with their transition into the college environment. They may h ave to bear the burden of a greater sense of familial obligation and pressure resulting in dissonance, discomfort and disconnection from family. They may also suffer from inadequate preparation and lack of support (i.e. institutional, financial and psych osocial) and often are from environments where the pursuit of a college education is an unknown and intimidating experience (Winkle Wagner, 2009; Overton Healy, 2010). The transition to college requires a certain amount of adjustment on the part of any st udent but the intersecting and overlapping factors associated with low income students who are first in their family to experience postsecondary education suggests that these students face significant transitional challenges as they enter college (Pascarel la, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2004). Social and Cultural T ransitions In addition to the transitional challenges brought about by being more likely to be underprepared academically and more likely to be limited in the college choice process, FGLI colle ge students also experience social and cultural transitions. According to Thayer (2000), when students enter an educational environment that is unfamiliar and unlike their previous experiences they may feel marginalized and unwelcome. Orbe (2004) describes that FGLI college students must negotiate issues of marginality as bridge the worlds of their homes/families/neighborhoods and college life (p. 133).
35 Several schol in college (Walpole, 2007, p.44). Researchers such as Rendon (199 3 ) wrote about the challenges that first generation Latino students experience in negotiating the cultural difference s between their home environments, the college choice process and college environments. In their research, Rendon described her their cultures of origin during the educational process and the pain of feeling caught between th 3 ) the ongoing worlds The author asserts that more research is needed to understand how students y navigate this balancing act to tease out ways to alleviate the Because of the conflicting roles and demands between family membership and educational mobility, FGLI students may encounter added stress when trying to recon cile these conflicts ( Cole 200 9 8). The social and cultural experience of transitioning to college may provide a sense of gain among FGLI college students, but also may contribute to a sense of loss of cultural attitudes and perceptions manifested prior to attending college. As FGLI students enter the college system, they have the Family D ynamics continued college experiences (Winkle
36 are frequently included as elements of family background characteristics that affect educational outcomes (Bergerson, 2009). Thayer (2000) noted families of FGLI college st udents are less likely to have knowledge about what is required to be successful in bind as: they are selected to accomplish unfulfilled missions for their parents while sim of first However, it is im portant to recognize that not all FGLI students enter college without significant support from their families. Some, as described by Orbe (2004), come from families with considerable cultural capital that, in the absence of a college education, still acts as meaningful support. Traditionally literature on the topic of FGLI Ball, 2007, p. 33). This deficit philosophy does not take i educational arena. According to Acker Ball, although parents may not possess the to f In sum, two contradictory arguments emerge from the literature about FGLI is predicated on their ability to individuate or separate themselves (at least in part) from their families, pasts, or Wagner, 2009, p.5) in order to develop a sense of belonging on
37 campus and thereby increase their likelihood of pers istence and degree attainment. However, the second argument states that FGLI students and other underrepresented groups are more likely to be successful if they maintain strong connections to their families and communities. While there is speculation amo ng scholars regarding the extent to which certain family dynamics impact FGLI college student success, the literature does indicate that FGLI students often feel like outsiders on campus as well as at home and that this correlates with their transition and persistence experiences in college. FGLI students sometimes face conflicting demands between family membership, institutional culture and educational mobility. FGLI students would benefit from rigorous academic preparation, increased college choice and h elp bridging the home/campus divide. Mitigating gaps in college success for FGLI students requires policymakers and practitioners to better comprehend the sources of such gaps and the programmatic interventions that can effectively address them. The next section of the chapter is dedicated to two institutional initiatives, orientation programs and financial aid which will also be Institutional Interventions Orientation P rograms Student success courses t campus support resources and time management, advising and career development, are one solution universities have devel oped to address the gap in preparation and are from low
38 ess courses such as First Year as participating in this type of orientation directly promotes academic performance and fosters social and institutional integration (Overto n Healy, 2010). Studies show that participation in first year programs is associated with a variety of positive educational outcomes, including a successful transition to college, higher grade point averages, and improved retention rates (Kuh et al. 2005; Pike, Hansen & Lin, 2011). In college success courses that take place at the start of a college career, students often form relationships with faculty and other staff members, initiating a campus support network that may remain in place throughout their c ollege experience (Yoder, 2011). Such programs could introduce students to faculty and staff familiar with FGLI student experiences who can serve as role models, especially as students are becoming acquainted with the university culture (Langhout, Drake, & Rosselli, 2009). Additionally, through participation in class activities and group projects, students associate with peers with whom they may form supportive relationships (Yoder). These college and contribute to their sense of belonging on campus (Kuh, et al., 2006). According to Reason (2009), research suggests participation in FYE programs or seminars and the academic skills students acquire as a result are powerful predictors of stud ent persistence and success. When FGLI students do not participate in such programs they miss an important opportunity to learn about the programs and services lack of
39 suggest that these programs include making all of the rules of the academy visible for those who might not already know how to navigate this system. Institutional interventions, such as FYE programs have potential to support FGLI students through their transition to college. Thus, first year orientation programs serve as an important institutional mechanism in efforts to retain FGLI college students. Financial A id Colleges offe r financial aid, there is governmental aid, and there are loans that from different economic backgrounds, while others focus aid heavily on students from low and moderat e costs of college may strain already stretched financial resources of the family. FGLI students by definition have fewer financial resources available to them, and several studies indi cate that these students have more financial concerns than do their high present study, the focus is on FGLI students who attend college full time in their home state, and are their financial aid status. FGLI students who are dependent on parental financial support is an area of particular concern in part because the traditional parental financial safety nets are often not available to FGLI college students (Eitel & Martin, 2009). aid they receive. FGLI student status may limit students understanding of the financial aid pr studied 14 public, four year universities serving large numbers of low income students
40 particu larly low (p. 44). The authors describe that some FGLI students fail to apply for the forms, or they cannot get their parents to provide them with the necessary info apply for aid because they do not want loans and do not know they may be eligible for grant aid or they decline financial aid offered to them because they do not understand th debt at much higher interest rates than traditional student loans simply because they Healy, 2010, p. 31). FG LI students may experience increased difficulty in the process of applying for financial aid. The processes by which institutions award financial aid can also pose problems that produce disproportionately negative consequences for FGLI students. Accordin come, first can be especially problematic for FGLI students, who are more likely than their CG peers to delay college application and enrollment, because students who apply and/or enroll early receive more grant aid and less loan aid than students who apply late often awarded based on merit rather than need. In an attempt to competitively attract and recruit the academically highest performing students, increasingly institutions are placing an emphasis on offering more merit based scholarship aid. This shift in aid policy de creases the aid available for the alternative strategy of providing better grant support for the neediest students. The persistence of FGLI students is particularly
41 threatened by the shift away from need based grant aid to loans and merit aid as research 421). Financial hardship limits campus involvement. To help defray the cost of going to colle to pay fo r college while some also work to provide financial support for their families and are more likely to work full time jobs than part time jobs, an indicator for attrition ( Dillon, 2010). FGLI students compared to their peers are 20% more likely to work more than 20 hours a week in order to meet financial obligations (Engle & Tinto, 2008). Further, FGLI students are more likely to take on more hours or a full time job in ad dition to a full course load because these students tend to be more averse to incurring debt than their CG peers (Dillon). FGLI students also rely upon financial aid However, cer to campus. Participation in work study programs, as a form of financial assistance, brings students into direct contact with faculty and academic staff and exposes them to institutional pract ices and policies. These features may have particular importance with regard to FGLI student success. In addition to a steady income, the advantages afforded to the financial aid recipient from participation in an on campus work study
42 program may enhance 1642). One of the most important factors in persistence research for FGLI students is their engagement and integration or sense of belonging on campus. Adequate financial aid frees FGLI students to fully engage in activities on their campuses. In other words, financial aid can act as a mechanism to increase FGLI students sense of belonging as they are afforded the opportunity to become fully integrated into the their institutions with the time to interact with peers and participate in campus social functions (Nora et al., 2006). Concurrently, students are also able to more fully engage in academic activities, b oth in the classroom and on campus. Behaviors such as taking part in study times impossible if the student is constantly worried about money or if the student feels that time for the student to make use of academic resources that could have an impact on his or her academic performance. Kuh, et al. (2008) found that student engagement in educati onally purposeful activities during the first year of college had a positive, statistically significant effect on persistence, even after controlling for background characteristics. An adequate financial n and has the capacity to increase their social and academic integration on campus leading to an increased likelihood of persisting to degree completion. In addition, this type of assistance decreases the attractiveness of alternative activities common am ong FGLI students such as working
43 long hours at off campus jobs, transferring to a university that is closer to home so that room and board are not an issue, or simply entering into the labor force and postponing college indefinitely (Nora et al., 2006). A ccording to Bowen et al., (2009), it makes good sense to link concerns about the cost of college to concerns about the enrollment and graduation rates of FGLI students. Financial aid policies that offset rising tuition costs offer one tactic that can be u sed by governments and universities to combat the generally lower matriculation and completion rates observed among these students. Pascarella et al. (2004) finds it li ght of their potential effects on the extent to which they facilitate or impede the Bowen et al., (2005) stress the value of active programs and especially targeted efforts authors describe that decisions concerning the allocation of institutional a id is one effort The steep declines in state funding for public higher education have contributed to tuition increases resulting in higher reports of unmet financial need among students for federal aid such as the Pell Grant and Work Study programs, as well as federal loan (p. 48). Indeed, the rising costs of tuition, the complexity of the financial aid application
44 process, the increased likelihood that FGLI students will to work over 20 hours per week to meet financial obl igations during college and the decreased amount of aid being directed toward the neediest students collectively constrain the transition and persistence of FGLI students. A recurrent theme in this review of literature is the obstacles FGLI students face making the transition to college. William Bowen and Derek Bok make this point in their book on underrepresented students in higher education, called The Shape of the River : graduate and professional schools, and into jobs, family responsibilities, and civic life. But this image is misleading, with its connotation of a smooth, well defined, and well understood passage. It is more helpful to think of the nurturing of talent as a process akin to moving down a winding river, with rock (p. xxi). m shift throughout higher education. To increase college persistence and completion, scholars, educators, and policy makers must take a harder look at the needs and circumstances of the students they are serving and discover what might be done to help the m navigate more effectively the rocks and shoals of higher education. Students from low income families whose parents did not attend college are less likely than their CG peers to enter the college pipeline and more likely to leave the pipeline at each st ep along the way (Choy et al. 2000). Therefore, efforts to help students prepare for and successfully transition to college through rigorous academic preparation, increased college choice, support for bridging home and college life, effective orientation p rograms, and need based financial aid all have the potential to keep FGLI students in the pipeline. The largest payoffs will
45 come from helping students to enter the pipeline and persist to completion. The next section of the literature review concerns per sistence in college for FGLI students. Persistence in C ollege According to Welch (2009), issues of student attrition and attainment have emerged as a central concern for colleges and universities across the country. Researchers have studied the dynamics o f college student persistence and retention on the subject of student persistenc e and retention underscores the significance of institutional characteristics and context in influencing student success (Kuh, et al., 2008). Campus C limate Just as there are attributes individual students bring to colleges, universities themselves have sp ecific characteristics and structures that create a campus climate (Welch, 2009). Higher education institutional climates shape rules, values, norms, and (Smith, 2011, p. 21 ). Institutional climate is an aspect of the postsecondary environment that may produce obstacles for FGLI college students. According to personal validation, peer in teraction, and campus involvement all converge to support or Institutional climate can either lead to or impede academic and social integration for FGLI students.
46 FGLI students n eed to feel that their college is concerned about their individual achievement and be able to access support services to ensure their success. Messages of expected success are particularly important to FGLI students and the college itself must be a place where these are communicated. According to Overton an expectation generation students; therefore the campus and those from wealthier backgrounds and therefore require minority, low income, and first generation students to ne gotiate myriad unfamiliar cultural norms, both in and never quite comfortable in Hurtado, Milem, Clayton Pedersen, and Allen (1999) call for universities to consider enacting diverse learning environments by reviewing campus practices through a historical legacy of inclusion/ excl usion, looking at campus demographics and attending to the campus climate. Additionally, the authors suggest reviewing the behavioral dimensions on campus (interaction, curriculum, etc.) that contribute to campus climate. The most significant impact on t he behavioral dimension of campus climate comes from those on campus that have some of the most frequent and direct contact with FGLI students. Research has shown faculty characteristics and behaviors that contribute to a welcoming institutional climate a nd increase engagement within the classroom can increase persistence (Reason, 2009).
47 Faculty Practice and P edagogy It is important to understand how the attitude and practice of faculty members toward FGLI college students may affect their academic success and to identify the study conducted by Kim and Sax (2009) reveal that compared to middle or upper class or non generat ion students generally are more often excluded from faculty interaction whether it is research related or course frequently assist faculty with research for course credit, communicate wi th faculty FGLI students ( p. 454). Kim and Sax recommend that faculty members, administrators, and nted student faculty interaction. Not surprisingly, the teaching methods and skills of faculty membe rs impact FGLI student departure decisions (Braxton & McClendon, 2001). Active learning has been found to have differential impact on various student populations and in different generation students who report more participation in group discussion, presentations, performances, research projects, and group projects, and who more frequently discuss courses with other d collaborative learning seems to introduce opportunities for engaging in other effective educational practices and contribute to social integration, institutional commitment, and intent to return.
48 The faculty student interaction in the classroom has impor tant implications for FGLI student persistence. According to Lofink and Paulsen (2005), FG students are is most effective early on in the college experience and oc seek to reaffirm first communicating that their ideas and opinions have value (p. 421). Institutions can invest in training faculty to foster validation in th e classroom and to foster validating experiences outside the classroom. Kim and Sax (2009) suggest that revealing different patterns in faculty interaction that depend on a stud generation status, constitute another potential area where further study is needed by higher education researchers and more attention by faculty and student affairs professionals. That is, institutions and their members as well generation students experience faculty contact differently from their Learning C ommunities An organizational response suggested by retention research in support of FGLI students is the adoption of learning communities. Learning communities are identified by common elements, including programing designed explicitly for first year students, shared residential living spaces, the classroom as community buildi ng, and co enrollment in two or more courses (Overton Healy, 2010). According to Thayer (2000), y positive effect on academic outcomes as well as personal outcomes such as
49 encouraging the formation of supportive peer groups. This support often extends beyond the classroom and helps students merge into campus life and develop a sense of belonging (Ov erton Healy). According to Zhao and Kuh (2004) there is a significant body of research on the benefits of learning communities and peer group involvement with regard to increased persistence and learning communities have been cited as one of several effe ctive practices for enhancing student engagement. Factors that impact persistence and access to an interdisciplinary multicultural curriculum, all of which foster a sense of year colleges have revealed that FGLI students who participated in learning communities were more engaged and more likely to persist from freshman to sophomore year than co mparison group students (Engstrom & Tinto 2008). However, Bowen et al., (2009) speculate that the amount of family resources available to a student may matter less in a relatively intimate setting, such as a community college, in which the institution itse lf provides more support for FGLI students. The authors indicate that students from and more nurturing in large university settings than do their classmates from families that are more experienced in dealing with the cultural, social, and academic challenges communities may be especially helpful for FGLI students attending large public unive rsities.
50 Learning communities are not panaceas for FGLI students; but as Jehangir learning environments that allow students to cultivate a sense of belonging and voice in the 48). While the outcomes of learning communities may benefit utilized by student support services programs and other programs serving students from first gen Academic A dvising Academic advising constitutes a major domain of institutional academic programming focused on improving student persistence and degree completion. Selecting an academic major is Healy, 2010, p. 33). Results suggest that academic advising, in addition to other institutional practices, may have significant implications for the persistence of FGLI college students (Strayhorn, 2006). Findings indicate that advising positively affects retention and have the same knowledge of 2006, p. 59). One way institutions can respond to this issue is to develop formulas and tutoring. Strayhorn sug include indicators such as first generation low income status (p. 104). From a logistical view, it may be a stretch for the same institution to offer students a range of structures to govern the declaration of an academic major and
51 options in terms of models of advising. However, providing students with a selection of advising structures and models equipped to serve a variety of student populations may be worthwhile to consider as a way to increase attainment (Workinger, 2011). Matching specific option for selecting an academic major ot be feasible from a logistical standpoint, but (Workinger, 2011, p. 158). Institutional approaches to advising hold significant potential in addressing the persistence and retention of FGLI students. Bahr (2008) states that college Implications of Institutional I nterventions The responsibility for student rete ntion is campus wide, according to Braxton (2001), and goes beyond the province of admissions and student affairs to include academic and non academic administrators and faculty members. Hurtado and Carter (1997) indicate that early transition experience s that facilitate the formation of peer groups and adjustment to college can be facilitated by institutional intervention. education for academically underprepared students, l earning cohorts and communities, for groups such as first generation, low income college students (Smith, 2011, p. 3). Furthermore, these students benefit from assistance i n navigating unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable situations that can come with academic culture and faculty perceptions.
52 Given the numerous sources of influences, no single aspect can be isolated as providing the answer to increasing institutional rete ntion rates for these students. Thayer (2000) clarifies that while retention strategies that work for FGLI students are likely to work for the general population, by contrast, if these strategies do not account for the characteristics and circumstances co mmon among FGLI students, the strategies will not be as successful with them. Kuh et al. (2005) suggested that higher education must institutionalize student success, calling for a shift within the culture of higher education institutions. Moreover, thes e authors assert that programs designed specifically for students of individual racial groups, low income backgrounds, and first generation college students are necessary. According to Goodman (2011) these programs can provide the guidance and support t students of various backgrounds need in order to navigate the campus the faculty, and others will be better positioned to successfully co create strategies for their college attendance and success (Coffman, 2011). This chapter highlig hts some of the institutional features and programming that education institutions. A central aspect of the FGLI student transition to and persistence in postsecondary education involves negotiating a sense of belonging. The increasing number of FGLI students on college campuses across the U.S. presents itself as a
53 valuable point of analysis for research that seeks insight into how sense of belonging is negotiated in an education al environment (Orbe, 2004). Theoretical Framework Sense of belonging in the college student literature has been shown to be an ( Bowma n et al., 2008 ry of integration was unique to the field of voluntary departure from colleges and universities as an issue not just with the student olf Wendel et al., p. 414, 2009). Tinto posited that the Wendel et al., p. 415). of campus cultural norms commitment to the institu instead of integration conformity and assimilation that critics have aptly pointed out are not inclusive of the Thus, sense of
54 (p. 327). Researchers have typically conceived of sense of belonging as part of the psychosocial processes involved with the adjustment and transition to college. Different types of social and academic interactions (e.g., memberships, specific peer interactions Wendel et al., (2009 ), for a student to develop a sense of belonging, the student must understand and adopt some elements of campus culture, but the institution must also be receptive to s students become integrated into the social and academic systems of the university, they develop a psychological sense of belonging to the university community, which is a n important precursor to desirable outcomes such as increased commitment and Sense of belonging is one dimension of FGLI student transition and persistence the outcomes of sense of belonging which past research shows are important to consider, should also tion and In the Hurtado and Carter (1997) study, the sense of belonging measure was a
55 course work with other students outside class (in both the second and third years) had a higher sense of belonging in the third year of college. Additionally, the authors found that at large, research institutions underrepresented and marginalized students use peer organization membership to achieve personal goals, make sense of campus environments, and to engender a sense of belongin g to campus communities. Thus, further research is needed to determine whether students with specific college majors or in various fields of study; in classrooms where faculty require study groups; and in other institutionally based structures, such as living learning residential programs, tha t may enhance students' opportunities to discuss Sense of belonging among college students has been a key variable in other studies as well. For example, Krause and Coates (2008) describe the Beyond class Engagem ent Scale (BES) they applied in their study of student engagement emerging from a large scale study of first year undergraduate students in Australian universities. socia Coates, 2008, p. 502). The authors explain that the item with greatest loading in this scale is that focusing on whether students feel they belong to the university community. The instrument from which these scales were drawn was administered towards the end of the first year, however the authors argue for the need to monitor changing patterns
56 and dimensions of engagement throughout the first year and beyond, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures. The authors indicate that in order to be most useful for shaping policy and practice, it is important to understand how time durin Krause and Coates a sense of belonging and community on campus is a particularly potent indicator of engagement and intention to persist. Ostrove and Long (2007) suggest that th ere are many ways in which people derive a sense of belonging and multiple dimensions along which belonging can be structured. In their study of low income college students the researchers examined how social class impacted persistence in college through a sense of belonging. The authors articulate that their experiences of belonging at college and how belonging is related to academic and ( p. 380). Their results demonstrat ed that social class background has Indeed, social college, which in turn predicted social and academic adjustment to college, quality of their findings suggest that social class may have some of its most critical influence through a sense of belonging. However, the authors a knowing that lower social class position relates to poorer college outcomes is, in many ways, not a Knowing that its primary influence may be about belonging, i n contrast, is very useful,
57 Sense of belonging has been largely neglected in preva iling models of student persistence and involvement (Hausmann et al., 2009). Given the importance of sense of belonging for promoting student persistence and academic achievement, Locks et al. facilitate these belonging facilitates college transitions and long term success in colle 280). These scholars highlight the importance of exploring how FGLI students develop a sense of belonging on their campus. Therefore, further examination about how a sense of belonging facilitates college transitions and long term success i n college is critical in understanding how to improve transition into and graduation from college for FGLI students (Bowen, Kurtzwell & Tobin, 2005; Hausmann et al., 2009; Locks et al., 2008; Oliv i a, 2004; Ostrove & Long, 2007; Perna, 2007). According to to explain the college choices process, researchers are employing different paradigms, postsecondary d ecisions (p. 46). What better way to understand FGLI students, their choice to attend a four year university, and the hurdles they have to overcome before graduating, than by having participants give voice to and visually represent their own experiences. My goal as a researcher and writer is to give my participants this opportunity.
58 Chapter S ummary This chapter provided an introduction to the FGLI student population, and the terminology and concepts utilized in the college student literature. To better understand how FGLI college student transition and persistence has been studied in the research literature, a review of the concepts of engagement, involvement, and integration was presented. The literature review highlighted issues concerning FGLI studen to college along with such postsecondary practices as first year orientation, remediation, and financial aid. The college student persistence literature is also reviewed with a focus on FGLI students and the areas of faculty practice and pe dagogy, learning communities, and academic advising. In addition, this chapter presented the theoretical framework of sense of belonging that guides this study. This study examines the perspectives of FGLI college students and their transition to and pers istence in college, as documented through participant driven photo elicitation. Sense of belonging provides a theoretical framework to better understand In highlighting the differences in co llege experiences for FGLI students, the become clear. The scholarship that examines the perspectives of FGLI students on their college experiences is an area of research th at has received little attention and therefore is an area in which the opportunity for new research exists (Walpole, 2007). Through photo elicitation and participant narratives, this study will explore FGLI they have prepared and the challenges they face as they persist.
59 FGLI college students tend to have a much lower rate of persistence to graduation than do continuing generation students, due to many factors such as parental education and socioeconomic sta tus, and racial and ethnic group. These students are at a disadvantage in their preparation for the rigor and culture of college, and once enrolled tend not to be as involved in the campus activities and culture. For many FGLI students their social reali ties play an integral role in their academic success (Hendrix, 2009). Therefore, a better understanding of FGLI college student transition and persistence experiences is an important step towards the development of practices and pedagogies that enable stud ents to acculturate into the academy and increases in the engagement, involvement and integration of FGLI students on campus, and further examination is needed to unde rstand the transition and persistence experiences of these students. The next chapter describes the methodology utilized in the study of FGLI college students. In particular, the chapter will present the sampling frame, a discussion of the participants and the recruitment methods used to locate them. I also address the analytic method, data collection procedures, data analysis, and my researcher bias. Using qualitative methods, this study seeks to understand the transition and persistence experiences of FGLI college students, as documented through participant driven photo elicitation and open ended interviews. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the limitations of this study and a chapter summary.
60 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS AND DESI GN In this chapter I present the research design details for this qualitative study. In particular, I discuss the sampling frame and sample of students (i.e. FGLI first generation low income students), and how I recruited and selected the participants. I also address the analytic method, data collection procedures, data analysis, and my researcher bias. Using qualitative methods, this study seeks to understand the transition and persistence experiences of FGLI college students, as documented through pa rticipant driven photo elicitation and open ended interviews. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the limitations of this study and a chapter summary. Research Q uestions The current study investigates the significance of one factor that, al though not traditionally emphasized in prevailing models of the college student experience, has recently been identified as an area needing increased attention in research on student or university contributes to an un derstanding of how undergraduate FGLI students document, through PDPE (participant driven photo elicitation), their transitions to the university environment and how they have persisted in their academic pursuits given the obstacles recognized by college a ccess and retention scholars e.g., Oliv i a (2004) and Perna (200 6 ). The qualitative research approach of PDPE addresses the research questions: (1) How do FGLI undergraduate students document their transition into and persistence in a four year higher educa tion
61 institution? (2) How do FGLI undergraduate students perceive their educational and social experiences in this institution? (3) What factors do FGLI students attribute to their transition and persistence? Qualitative Methods in Educational R esearch Qua litative researchers have attempted to define their work in many different ways, however, the methodology of qualitative research often implies interaction with participants, objects or situations being studied (Hatch, 2002). Several authors have indicate d that qualitative research in particular is appropriate for the study of FGLI students in higher education. Bergerson (2009) describes that much of the research on v ariables in determining how and why students will make the postsecondary decisions strongly needed. According to Bergerson (2009), this type of research would have the related to how certain groups of students, such as lower socioeconomic students, engage in the process of deciding whether and where to go to college. Bowen et al. (2009) advocate the use of qualitative techniques saying that this type of data collection narrow the disparities in college graduation rates between students who a re underserved and underrepresented and those who are more advantaged (p. 56). Qualitative research has been found especially appropriate for educators interested in taking action and using their research to bring about social, political and/or economic c hange (Hatch, 2002).
62 generation students According to the author, additional research and specifically qualit ative studies are delve deeply into the world of the participants and gather nuanced detail and engage in experiences, and outcomes, qualitative approaches may be particularly well suited to research on these students (Walpole, 2007). The qualitative app roach will assist in understanding how the participants in the study navigated their experiences with transition and persistence as FGLI college students. Institutional Context for the S tudy I located my study within a large southeastern research intensiv e institution because of the prominent role four year institutions play in developing the next generation of skilled leaders and workers. The institution will be given the pseudonym, Southeast University. At the commencement of this study, Southeast Univ ersity enrolled an undergraduate population of over 32,000. Considered a PWI (predominately White institution), 58 % of entering students are White, 17.5 % are Hispanic, 10.5 % are African American and 14 % are described as other. In regard to student pe rsistence, the freshman retention rate of 96 % is among the highest in the
63 country. This institution is one of the five largest universities in the nation and thus enrolls a number of FGLI undergraduate students. Gatekeeper Gatekeepers within the rese as the individuals, groups, and organizations that act as intermediaries between 1 p. 486). However, my relationship with the gatekeeper organization at Southeast University, g iven the pseudonym the Partnership, began this study I served as a graduate assistant in one of the Partnership offices. The Partnership is administered from Southeast Univ Student Affairs. It comprises a scholarship program and a school improvement partnership previously forged between the university, the College of Education and six high poverty, low performing high schools across Florida. The Partnership supports low income students who are first in their families to attend college. The program provides scholarships or financial aid packages to first generation in college freshmen who are Florida residents from low income familie s. The program also provides peer to peer mentoring, fosters student leadership, and provides guidance and advising. As a graduate assistant, my work primarily concerned developing college success research and outreach programs and services for students f rom the six partner high schools in the state, an aspect of the program which is being phased out. My duties included the mentoring of FGLI undergraduate students over the course of several semesters, the coordination of outreach activities, hosting socia l events, facilitating financial aid and college success workshops for students and their parents and assisting with professional development and assessment of high school administrators and teachers.
64 Thus, through my work with the Partnership program ove r the course of several years, I was involved with the undergraduate students in the program in a mentorship capacity. I initially identified three participants for this study, all of whom are associated with the Partnership program, and later recruited t hree additional participants who are also associated with the Partnership program. As a result, the three who were in the Partnership while I worked there interacted with me in ways quite different from a traditional research project where I might intervi ew someone for an hour and then have them react to the transcripts some months later. I have had multiple opportunities to connect with the three participants originally recruited for this study. Being associated with the program led to accessing not only information about their experiences in college, but also about their lives. During our previous interactions, in addition to discussing registration, coursework and exams, many times discussions became more personal and involved topics such as intimate r elationships, conflicts with family members, financial issues, employment, etc. While some of our interactions took place in the office assigned to me as a graduate assistant for the program, informal interactions occurred outside of the program at coffee shops, around the College of Education, on Facebook and at Partnership events. With the three newer participants I made a concerted effort to build rapport through such means as formal and informal contact using email and Facebook, by organizing and hosti ng a dinner for participants after data collection was complete and attending a performance of one of the participants. From the beginning of the identification of the research topic, through respondent interactions and in interpreting the results a conc erted effort was made to make the study an interactional project. According to Gubrium and Holstein (2003), the
65 To summarize, the participants in this research study are members of the Partnership Program. The Partnership Program is administered under a large, public, research in tensive university within the State of Florida. The admission criteria for the progra m are limited to students who are considered first generation or low income, as college students from families with low incomes and/or whose parents did not attend college are these students are less likely to attend or graduate from college (Walpole, 2007 ). The Partnership served as a gatekeeper organization, occupying an important position within the research process. As Clark (201 1 FGLI undergraduate student participants through the Partnership organization assisted me in building trust in an effort to collect richer, deeper and more valuable data for this study, and also aided in locating and building rapport with the three participants who were recruited later. Sample Qualitati ve research involves selecting people or sites that can help the researcher best understand a phenomenon (Creswell, 2012). For this study, I used a purposeful sampling procedure to create a participant pool to interview and participate in the photo elicit ation data collection (Creswell; Patton, 2001). In purposeful sampling
66 FGLI col lege students who are enrolled in a public, four year, research intensive institution. I utilized a qualitative sampling strategy to create the sample for this study. The hen provided insights into their perspectives as well as access to other potential participa nts that I could not obtain on my own (Spradley 1980 ). I decided to limit my sample size to six student participants. Creswell (2012) states that the overall ability of a researcher to provide an in with the addition of each new allowed me to study FGLI college student experiences in greater detail and with more depth. Student S ample In this study, I considered college access and success for traditionally aged, Eng lish speaking, first generation low income first time and full time enrolled undergraduate students, due to the volume of research documenting their decreased academic achievement and other educational outcomes. Below I have included a summary of the over all background characteristics of participants which is followed by a more detailed demographic description of each participant I recruited and my relationship to them. All participants were given pseudonyms to protect their identities and to maintain con fidentiality throughout the study. Six program participants were interviewed for this research study and of the six participants, three were women and three were men. The age range of the participants
67 was from 20 to 22 years and all lived off campus at th e time of the interview. All six participants were Florida residents and three of the participants had parents born outside of the United States (Honduras, Ghana, and St. Maarten). Of the three families with parents who were originally from outside the U.S ., two families moved to this The home life of the study participants varied, with some of the participants coming from two parent households, some of the participants coming from homes with single parents and one participant who was at first homeless, then placed in the foster care system and then eventually adopted. The majority of the participants were employed while in school, working 20 hours or less between work study and jobs off campus. All participants we re enrolled in college full time. The interviews were approximately 80 120 minutes in duration and were comprised of multiple questions. The questions covered topics that ranged from extracurricular and engagement activities in high school and college, pe er network and other forms of support, and family practices and expectations about education. The documented by participants through PDPE and discussed in the intervi ews. Many of the photographs contained pictures of family members, peers, or mentors. The interview questions focused on three primary areas of interest which were family dynamics, systems of support for college transition and persistence and participant decisions to pursue college. Additionally the role of the Partnership Program, whi ch
68 participants attributed to helping to develop and sustain their connection to the campus community, was discussed. What follows are brief participant profiles that depict ceptions about education. All participants were given pseudonyms to protect their identities and to maintain confidentiality throughout the study. Profiles of Study Participants Angel Angel is a 21 year old Hispanic male who is originally from Miami. He is a senior whose major is Elementary Education, with a self reported grade point average (GPA) of 3.7. His parents moved to the United States from Honduras before any of the children ther works the importance of obtaining a college education although they did not complete high cation and that required recommendations and nominations from his elementary school Although Angel attended a high poverty, low performing high school he was highly engaged and held leadership positions in several clubs and organizations. He attributes a visit to the university during his ninth grade year, an outreach effort organized and paid for by the older sister enrolled in a community college school after she completed a certificate of attendance in high school. She has since dropped out with no plans to continue. Angel describes that his younger brother, who attends the same high school he did in Miami,
69 Florida is on track to graduate high school and has expressed interest in attending college. Anna Anna is a 22 year old White female o riginally from Orlando, Florida. I have known Anna for about four years. I met Anna in May of 2008 when she started working as an undergraduate student assistant at the Partnership office. Since that time, we have maintained contact and she was eager to participate when I described the study to her. She is a junior majoring in Family, Youth & Community Sciences. Her self reported GPA is 3.4. She was raised by her mother and father until her parents divorced in 2001. Her father was incarcerated when Anna was fifteen and was subsequently diagnosed with mental illness and alcoholism. Her mother engaged in several long term relationships with live incarcerated. Anna indicated she had a tumultuou s upbringing with a significant amount of financial strain, mental health concerns, physical disability, and dysfunction in her home. Anna was often responsible for filling a parental role and helped to coordinate with medical staff for the care of two of her three siblings who suffered from severe physical disabilities. In high school Anna describes that she was shy and involved in AP courses and academic clubs at the high poverty, low performing high school she attended in Orlando, Florida. Anna receiv ed a great deal of support and assistance from her high school counselor and encouragement from her peers who were also FGLI students. Anna describes that she was able to gain the requisite knowledge about college admissions and college preparation mainly through personal initiative and by surrounding herself with college going peers. She attributes much of her transition to and persistence in college to the support she received from her peers.
70 Grace Grace is a 22 year old Black female originally from Jac ksonville, Florida. I have known Grace for about three years through our association with the Partnership program. She is majoring in Health Education and Behavior and is a junior with a self reported GPA of 2.7. Grace was raised by both her mother and f ather. Her parents worked a great deal and both of them encouraged her to go to college. She has four older sisters and two younger sisters. Grace stated she also had a brother who was killed in a violent altercation in the neighborhood in which she grew up. The expectation communicated to her was to go to college even though none of her older siblings had. sisters are going through and you see what is possible with a high school diploma. Go and participating in sports. Grace received a great deal of supp ort and assistance from her high school guidance counselor, who encouraged her and provided the requisite knowledge about college admissions and college. As a result, Grace was able to obtain scholarships and grants to offset her college expenses, though her college options were desire to become a college graduate impacted her younger sister who is currently seeking a college degree as well.
71 Alicia Alicia is a 20 year old Black female. She described that during her childhood she and her mother were homeless for several years and she was then placed in the foster care system and eventually was adopted. After being adopted she was raised, along with her younger sister, in Tampa, Florida. She majors in Dance and her self reported GPA is 3.0. She stressed the importance of education in succeeding in life. According to Alicia, her mother took great strides to protect and provide for Alicia while they were homeless. At age seven she w as separated from her mother by child protective services and entered the foster care system. Alicia and her sister were then eventually adopted and she completed her secondary education at a public magnet school for the arts in Tampa where she began her t raining in dance. She described that her adopted parents, not encourage or expect her or her sister or any of their biological children to attend college. Alicia expre ssed that her desire to pursue higher education has at times put force that helped develop her desire to earn a college degree. Alicia also received a great deal of support and assistance from her high school Student Government Association (SGA) advisor, who provided her guidance and the requisite knowledge about college admissions and college. She remains closely connected to her SGA advisor. She hopes that her desire to b ecome a college graduate will impact her younger sister to seek a college degree as well.
72 Franko Franko is a 22 year old Black male who is a junior majoring in Industrial Engineering. His self reported GPA is 3.1. He graduated from a high poverty, low perf orming high school in Miami, Florida that is affiliated with the Partnership. I have known Franco for about three years through our association with the Partnership program. He and his mother relocated to the United States from St. Maarten when he was fo have as much opportunities as the United States has, so they made a decision for us to leave, my mom and myself, to come to the United States so that I could attend college f o high school. She stressed the importance of obtaining a college education although she herself did not complete. Franko describes that he was very self driven when it came to applying for and attending college. He researched his college options extensi vely and consulted national college rankings. His teachers in high school encouraged his college aspirations. Additionally, he attributes a visit to the university during his ninth grade year, an outreach effort organized and paid for by the Partnership P rogram, as especially significant to his transition to the university. Kermit Kermit is a 21 year old Black male who is a sophomore majoring in Engineering. His self reported GPA is 2.7. He was raised, along with two older brothers, by his mother, who is originally from Ghana. She worked as a caregiver and raised Kermit and his two brothers as a single parent mostly in Snellville, Georgia. They would
73 occasionally make trips to Ghana where they lived with an uncle until Kermit was a junior in high school and the family moved to Tampa, Florida due to a job transfer. only had a high school diploma herself. Kermit stated that even though he was initially unsure of his plans Kermit described that in high school he was shy and other than academics that included advanced placement courses, he was mainly involved in community service organizations. He attributes his participation in college preparation activities and his knowledge of college admissions requirements to his high school guidance counselor. She enco uraged his community service throughout high school and helped him apply were not recognized by the postsecondary education system in the United States. Currently one the same time as his brother, he is able to discuss his academic progress and consult with his brother about his major. Analytic Method One approach to conducting qualitative research is the use of visual methods. Visual methods are described by Stanczak (2007) as having the potential to create y world that we take in through our Before implementing this methodology it is important to understand and evaluate the
74 research landscape surrounding this approach. I begin this section of the chapter by providing a brief overview of visual methods in general and then the specific PDPE open ended, in depth interview process is addressed in detail. The following sections support visual approaches and specifically PDPE as a valuable lens for viewing the issues of educational access and success for FGLI students. Visual Methods in Educational R esearch Education as a field of inquiry has tended to avoid visual approaches to research (Fischman, 2001). The general tendenc y of educational researchers to dismiss images an essential role in educational resea rch by encouraging researchers to test and improve their understandings of school places, processes, and practices that operate that visual methodology can offer educ identify gaps and design appropriate programs to address issues of exclusion and 12 setting, the present study incorporated a visual approach to offer scholars and practitioners improved understandings based on participant produced images of their transition to and persistence in college. groups an opp ortunity to reproduce and understand their own world as opposed to directly in the process of collecting, arranging and analyzing visual material situates them as auth orities on their lives. This method has significant implications for improving
75 connections when the researcher is crossing boundaries such as age, race, socioeconomic status and education (Liebenburg). By granting interviewees an increased voice and a gr eater authority to interpret their own personal experiences as FGLI college students, photo elicited interviews provide a greater opportunity for participants to create their own sense of meaning and disclose it to the researcher (Stanczak, 2007). Visual m ethods offer a more inclusive and interactive format for the exploration of issues of educational research than is possible with word only interviews, especially for those who are historically marginalized such as FGLI college students. Through participan t produced images, this visual medium elicited relevant and meaningful transition and persistence in higher education. As a result of the inclusion of visual methods, the rela tionship between the researcher and the participant was taken to a deeper level. The photo elicitation technique also seemed to contribute to establishing rapport with participants. An additional dimension of understanding was brought to the researcher/p articipant relationship; sight was added to voice. Through participant accounts and the images they provided, students, faculty, staff, administrators, and scholars can make more informed interpretations of what these FGLI college students see; and throug h this visual meaning making process, learn how to make the higher education experience better for this historically marginalized group of students. Photo E licitation research images and text and interviews using words alone lies in the ways people react to these
76 physical basis: the parts of the brain that process visual information are evolutionarily approach incorporates photographs alongside other qualitative methods such as narrative, semi or unstructured individual or group interviews and participant observation, and can employ interpretative and participatory approaches. As well as talking about individual images, photo elicitation participants might undertake exercises nking sets of images according to particular criteria, engaging in dialogue indicated she undertook a similar exercise in this study. She reflected on the photo elicitation Photo elicitation is a qualitative research approach based on the idea that using of involvement with the interview and research process. Additionally this approach may assist with participant memory recall, and enable them to provide more nu anced responses. In this study, the participants appeared to find the approach provided them with an opportunity to reflect, recollect, and represent their experiences. This approach also allowed participants to employ symbolism, as visual images can be u sed to signify front of my car. I use it as like a symbol you can jump in a car and go anywhere you
77 of the photo elicitation approach can help the researcher create better interpretations of participant observations (Birnbaum, 2009). There are two primary variants of photo elicitation. The first is externally driven: subjects are asked to evaluate images that have been preselected and provided by researchers. Some researchers opt to produce photographs themselves and present the images they created to the research participants. As Clark Ibanez (2007) points out, this option allow Ibanez, 2007, p. 171). The second variation is participant driven: subjects choose and/or create the images that serve as the foundation of the interview. It has been argued that this version embodies photo and subjects, creating opportunities for participants to be more meaningfully involved in data genera tion and in some cases is presented as empowering participants (Auken, Frisvoll, & Stewart, 2010; Chio & Fandt, 2007; Clark Ibanez, 2007; Liebenberg, 2009; Packard, 2008; Prosser & Loxley, 2008; Stanczak, 2007; Sweetman, 2009). In recent years multipl e methods have arisen that can be categorized under the (Epstein et al., 2006; Packard, 2008; Welch, 2009). These variations all share a tendency to be participatory, indicating that the interview is driven by the participants who took the photos; this technique has also been termed native image making, parti cipant generated, and participant driven (Guillemin & Drew, 2010).
78 As Packard points out, these methods are almost always followed up with a photo the photographs toge ther as a way of both explaining the images and generating 65). As such, Mishler (1986) advocates more open ended questions, minimal interruption of participant accounts articulation in the presentation of the data. Consequently, in the PDPE interview, the experiences, in, and on, their own terms leading to less formal control in the interview process. Participant driven P hoto E licitation I nterviews personal identities, narrative, lifestyles, cultures, and societies, as well as with numerous other social researchers who incorporated visual techniques (Collier & potentially construct continuities between the visual culture of an academic discipline the PDPE interview, the issue of participant empowerment is particularly important. The aim of this method is to bridge the researcher/participant divide and bring the respondent more fully and actively into the research construction and analysis. Photo graphs taken by participants
79 2007, p. 199). A distinctive aspect of this study is that photography was used as a means for data collection. Photographs provide a good source of data, can vividly capture the setting for others, and can be creatively used to study the perspectives of people (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). Alicia articul ated how she constructed meaning out of the that I thought fit into transition and retention, and then from there I kind of put them in a sub categories and I ended up n ot using two of the pictures. I let the process speak to me; I let it tell me what was important and it ended up being very true and very their transition and persistenc e experiences in a four year institution and participated in photo elicitation interviews to describe their experiences. The participants in this study provided photographs that illustrated their transition and persistence experiences, which constitutes an important complement to word only interviews as these photographs visually document what participants find meaningful about their experiences. The incorporation of PDPE is inspired by the PDPE interviews of inner city youth conducted by Clark Ibanez (200 2007), in which the artist photographed urban high school students and accompanied the photographs with single page descriptions written by the subjects themselves. The images captured by p articipants in this study serve as a visual representation of the stories the participants voiced through the interview process (Robison, 2012). The results of this study add to the growing body of research linking
80 sense of belonging, social integration a nd student persistence. The images captured by the research participants in this study assisted in building connections between the experiences they verbally expressed in interviews and the images they captured. Unfortunately, some of the participants we re unable to complete the photo consent forms that required signatures of everyone pictured in the photographs. These consent forms were provided to participants in print and in PDF form over the course of a semester, with reminder emails sent out during the Thanksgiving and Christmas break. To maintain the anonymity of the participants and their family and friends and in adherence with the photo consent form requirements, the photographs provided by participants will not be included in the publication of this dissertation. Data C ollection In this section, I first briefly address the IRB approval process. I then discuss the PDPE protocol and the open ended, in depth interview guide in detail. Data collection consisted of engaging the participants in PDPE open ended, in depth individual interviews, audio recording and transcribing those interviews and collecting accompanying photographs and image descriptions. Before data collection, all participants received a letter of informed consent which I as the re searcher created. The letter of informed consent described the study, identified me as the researcher, addressed potential risks associated with participation in the study and informed participants of the approximate amount of time expected to participate. Participants were informed of the voluntary nature of the study with the opportunity to quit the study at any time with no consequences. Individuals who volunteered to participate in the study signed the letter of informed consent as
81 acceptance of the ter ms and returned the letter of informed consent prior to participating in the study. PDPE P rotocol Prior to conducting open ended, in depth interviews I asked participants to take or select previously taken photographs. These participant derived sets of photographs instructed participants to provide photographs of persons, places, objects, etc. that they believe impacted their transition into and persistence in their postsecondary institution. In the first set of pictures, participants created a collection of photographs that depicted people, places or things that were important in their transition to the university and selected five to eight of the photographs to di scuss in an interview. Next, participants were asked to provide photographs that depicted people, places or things that were/are important in their continued persistence at the university and select five to eight to discuss in an interview. Prior to the interview, participants were asked to write brief captions (one or two sentences) describing each of the photographs in each collection. The purpose of the captions was to provide some context and to clarify who was included in the photograph. I met wit h each participant to discuss the pictures in two separate individual interviews one focused on transition and one focused on their persistence. These meetings took place either in the office assigned to me as a graduate assistant or enclosed rooms at on e of the university libraries, as these locations were ideal for interviewing. I offered each participant the location of my office or the library or the option to meet in a place designated by the participants. Creswell (2002) stated that an
82 interview lo cation should be selected that is free from distractions and lends itself to using audio equipment, and I followed that guideline. descriptions of their transition and persistence. Each participant was interviewed for approximately 80 120 minutes using the PDPE open ended, in depth interview guide. Use of the interview guide facilitated parti cipant discussion about their college transition and persistence experiences. Interview G uide Qualitative interviewing provides an open ended, in depth exploration of an aspect of life about which the participant has substantial experience, often combine d with considerable insight (Charmaz, 2006). According to the author, in depth qualitative interviewing fits grounded theory methods particularly well. Charmaz explains that a As such, the interviews began by requesting that the participants talk in detail about why the photograph was taken and what the image meant to them. Following this guide, I asked students through PDPE open ended, in depth interviews to discuss how a par ticular picture impacted their decision to attend and persist in college using questions such as: 1) What is the image of and why did you take it? 2) Why is this image important to you as a member of the campus community? 3) What does the image say to you about your transition to (or persistence at) this university?
83 The PDPE open probe deeper in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the stories told and images captured by the research question in the interview invited the informant to try to address how the image he or she selected reflects something salient to the experience of transitioning to (or persisting in) higher educa tion. It should be emphasized that this question was asked in a general is Koro Ljungberg, 2005, p. 697). However, in cases where schools, teachers, family dynamic s, peers, college outreach initiatives and neighborhood context were only briefly discussed by the participant, I asked him/her whether any of those impacted his/her experience and to al the level of depth you are looking for in an answer, and once the interviewee has understood that ing that moves (Robison, 2012, p. 43). According to Gubrium and Holstein questions, cues, prompts and probes actively contribute to the contexts in which experiences are narrated. In this way, both interviewer and interviewee actively co
84 experiences of postsecondary transition and persistence. Interviews bega n by focusing on the images which the participants captured, utilizing PDPE techniques. I audio recorded each interview and used memoing to record initial ideas and thoughts. My notes taken about the interview also included facial expressions, voice tone s, or body movement, and the physical and emotional environment of the interview. In sum, data collection consisted of engaging the participants in PDPE open ended, in depth individual interviews, audio recording and transcribing those interviews and coll ecting their photographs and image descriptions. Data A nalysis collected as a part of th e research process including memos, participant interviews, audiovisual data and brief image descriptions written by participants. Once data were collected, the next task was to make meaning out of the memos, interview transcripts, images, and image descri ptions. According to Gubrium and Koro Ljungberg (2005), bolsters the other in the negotiation of meaning; both empirical and theoretical spaces work together in the final p documented in the final stages of the research process has been negotiated throughout the research process. In other words, meaning making occurred during and after interviews, while contemplating t he images produced by participants, through my various readings of the interview transcripts and the presented document and also through participants reading of the transcript and parts of the document.
85 I analyzed the memos, interview transcripts, images and participant descriptions for patterns, relationships, clusters, and theme. In grounded theory, generalizations are (Hatch, 2002, p. 15). When potential patterns are discovered, deductive processes are used to verify the strength of those patterns in the overall data set. Denzin and Lincoln employ multiple strategies to represent the meaning and knowledge produced in the research project. Crotty describes that the grounded theory research process seeks to (p. 78). Crotty (1998) explains that the re searcher as bricoleur emphasizes the her inventiveness, resourcefulness and imaginativeness. Such research invites an range of possibilities in terms of what and how they may wish to explore and express t, 2007, p. 488). Interview T ranscription I first listened to each interview, memoing to record initial ideas and thoughts. The interview was then transcribed verbatim and in its entirety in preparation for coding. During the reviewing of the transcript, I continued to memo, noting major themes that stood out, and later I used these notes to develop codes and compare with other data systematic reflection, and provide reality c 27).
86 Interview C oding by line process o f coding, reading segments of the data carefully word by word, line by line, searching for repeated words or phrases. According to Charmaz, for many grounded theorists, line by line coding is the first step in coding. Using Dedoose, a qualitative analysis software, I created 20 thematic codes which emerged out of multiple readings of the data, 14 of which had sub codes with some of those sub codes further reduced into a second tier of sub codes. The software program assisted in identifying patterns based o n word frequency within transcripts. After having identified the frequency of key words, I was able to select several of these to identify their contextual use. After repeated readings of each transcript, I developed codes and sub codes and applied these to excerpts enabled me to identify the frequency of codes applied within and among the transcripts. After several weeks, data saturation or the awareness that no new information is emerging, was reached. Subsequently, codes were consolidated and arranged into major thematic components. In addition to line by line coding, I implemented in vivo coding, a coding style that uses the exact words of the participants in the study. In vivo coding techn iques help to one code was
87 Using both line by line and in vivo coding assisted me in ensuring that the data gives voice to my participants, decreasing the possibility that my voice as researcher dominated the analysis process. From these codes, the major themes and core concepts contained in the data became apparent just as the liter ature had suggested ly early in the research proposal development process as topics that would likely be explored or surface when asking a first generation, low income college student about their rchers collect data and analyze it simultaneously. Grounded theorists must also attend to the quality of their data and ensure that the themes highlighted do, in fact, arise out of the data and are not imposed on them (Crotty, 1998). Denzin and Lincoln They argue that personal biography permeates all aspects of research. As such, in the following section I attempt to make explicit the influence of my own biography. While
88 engaging in the research process I constantly reflected on my subjectivity in the negotiation of the co construction of the data. Positionality, B ias As a researcher and teacher, I have developed a social constructionist orientation that assumes that social phenomena develop in societal contexts. As a social constructionist, my aim is not to accurately reflect a static reality, because social continually construct and (Gubrium, 2006, p. 72). Researchers whose work is informed by a more constructionist piece their experiences together ubrium & Koro Ljungberg, 2005, p. 697). In my role as bricoleur, I bring multiple, unique experiences that inform my decisions regarding the portrayal of the content of the photographs and interviews used in this research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). For th e purpose of this study, I positioned myself as a female researcher from a White, middle class, two parent household in which each parent held graduate degrees. Also I am a graduate student, well past participants I interviewed (Cole, 2008). In defining my own role as the reporter of research findings, I also must establish my position as a former middle and high school teacher for programs designed to serve economically and e ducationally disadvantaged students, embracing my own experience
89 as part of the writing process. I will not attempt to maintain a distanced objectivity in creating this representation of the data. Instead, I will use my practitioner judgment to discern wh ich pieces of the interview transcripts not only best convey the essence of the participant, but also allow for greater understanding of the dynamics of FGLI college 5 ). Winkle Wagner (2009 ) asserts the need for more research, particularly qualitative work that explores how students from underrepresented groups, make generation participants in her study felt that her subjectivity and her attempts to disrupt the White privilege and researcher / participant power paradigm in her role as a White female researcher working with mostly minority females. Issues of subjectivity and power dynamics are of concern to me in this study as well. Although I have never personally experienced college as a FGLI student, my positions as a former middle an d high school teacher for programs designed to serve economically and educationally disadvantaged students and as a former graduate assistant working with FGLI college students has afforded me first hand knowledge of this population. In addition, my knowl edge of the theory and best practices for serving these students is bolstered by my work as a graduate research assistant for two
90 professors of Educational Administration with research concentrations in college access and success. I asked participants for their personal photographs and educational stories to privilege their voice and deeply understand their experiences of transition and persistence. While inserting photographs into the interview process often elicits more information from the participants, I found that one of the benefits of PDPE was that I was able to privilege to a greater degree the perspective of the interviewee. For example, if I had used my own photographs to explore college transition and persistence I would likely have discounted o r minimized the ceremony commemorating even attend the graduation ceremony. The completion of my secondary education and the successful transition to a postsecondary ins titution was almost an assumed accomplishment. However, each participant chose to include a photograph of themselves and their family members at their high school graduation ceremony. In this study, I purposefully engaged my own experience and beliefs ab out my obligation to participate in work that demonstrates my commitment to education with a focus on traditionally underserved communities. The PDPE method helped to limit bias and led me to reevaluate some of my own assumptions and conceptions about the process of transition and persistence for FGLI college students. Member C hecking After transcribing and coding each interview, I conducted a member check in which I emailed each participant his or her transcribed interview and met with each participant in dividually to discuss the study findings. In addition to monitoring and trustworthiness is crosschecking data with respondents to validate or clarify the
91 intended meaning behind c ertain statements. This process gave respondents an opportunity to comment on the overall adequacy of the interview transcription and subsequent analysis. I gave participants access to all transcriptions of their specific interviews and checked with them for confirmation as I drew conclusions from images reviewed and interviews conducted. In addition, I checked back informally after meeting individually with each participant by hosting a dinner for participants, giving an interval of time in which they c ould reflect on the process and what had been said, and I encouraged them to contact me with any comments or concerns regarding meaning of their previous input or the interview process itself. This served to strengthen the social construction of the analy sis. The understandings gleaned from member checking helped me to recognize themes and touchstones and to ensure a more thorough and robust data collection (Guba & Lincoln, 1998). Trustworthiness versations post interview are likely to provide insight into the meaning making and data analysis these interactions, the reliability of the data obtained derives not only correspondence to meanings held within the respondent, but from their ability to convey (Gubrium, 2006, p. 72). Accordingly, the goal of this research study is to identify the truth of the real world at a specific point in time as captured in interviews and images by a small, specific group of FGLI college students, three of whom I have acknowledged I knew prior to the start of this study. I acknowledge the meani ngs of these interviews and images are subjective and are presented as an essence distilled from subjective
92 (Crotty, p. 83, 1998). Given that this is a qualitative study, t he data collection and analyses processes were geared more to identifying, understanding and describing the subjective experience of the selected FGLI study participants in an attempt to approximate the truth rather than make claims of certainty. At best, the outcomes reported in the study are suggestive rather than conclusive. Limitations The use of photographs for socially oriented research presents several important issues for consideration (Birnbaum, 2009; Clark Ibanez, 2007; Collier & Collier, 1986; E pstein et al., 2006; Harper, 2002; Liebenburg, 2009; Packard, 2008; Prosser & Loxley, 2008). One such issue is the very act of photography. Photography can be conceived of as a multi stage endeavor requiring a combination of technical skills and decision making to produce a photograph or a series of images. Framing subjects, capturing images, editing, printing and the selection process are each acts which may be studied for their influence. A second issue concerns how the photographs under study were ge nerated and how they are representative of or meaningful to the subject being considered (Birnbaum, 2009). My position as a researcher has been shaped and limited in multipl e ways. First, due to my interactions with some of the participants before the interviews, I came to the interview process with assumptions and previous notions about these participants (Gubrium & Koro Ljungberg, 2005). I also acknowledge that these relati onships may have contributed to shaping the data collection and analysis process in my expanded role as the researcher in co constructing data. Moreover, when presenting data, there is
93 al report. According to using images produced by the participants in add ition to extensive participant quotes, infusing the language of the participants. Benefits for P articipants The participants of this study received short term and long term benefits. An example of a short term benefit is that the confidence of the students will be enhanced as a result of oject. Additionally, the students may have gained a greater understanding and hopefully an appreciation of their own experiences and the experiences of other FGLI students enrolled in four year institutions. Kermit benefit a lot from participating in this study and from sharing these stories with first The long term benefit from participation in this study may be that the documented experiences of the students will serve as the impetus for implementing or enhancing policies or services that ensure the success of FGLI college students enrolled in four year institutions. Additionally, through the interpretation of the findings from the study, thes e students may have been able to provide university scholars, practitioners and administrators with implications for policy recommendations based on their personal experiences.
94 Chapter S ummary This chapter includes a thorough description of the data collec tion process I used followed by a breakdown of the data analysis process which I implemented. Finally, I discussed how my research has maintained trustworthiness through the process, as I continually acknowledge my own subjectivity and incorporate various research practices such as member checking. Through the use of extensive participant quotes and by infusing the language of the participants the next chapter highlights the voices of those who made this research possible, six FGLI students enrolled at Sout heast University. The next chapter will include excerpts from individual interviews. The themes derived high school resources, and how they were able to transition to college and persist with the support of the Partnership Program. Another theme discussed in the next chapter concerns financial constraint and challenges associated with being a FGLI student. Additionally the chapter will discuss the importance of peer network support to in the discussion of the findings, is a larger discussion o f how these findings are reflected in the literature.
95 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS How we perceive what has happened in our lives guides and shapes our outlook as well as what has objectively happened to us. This meaning building process is evident in the storie s FGLI participants in this study have shared about their lives and the photographs that document their experiences of transition and persistence. Using qualitative methods, this study sought to understand the transition and persistence experiences of FGLI college students, as documented through PDPE (participant driven photo elicitation) and open ended interviews. Research Q uestions This study asked participants about their experiences of college transition and persistence, from which emerged themes an d meanings, both within and between groups of FGLI students. In order to more fully understand their educational journeys, the current study investigates an area needing increased attention in research on e of belonging to their college or university (Hausmann et al., 2009). At the onset of this research project, the goal was to gain an understanding of how FGLI college students navigate belonging in a university setting. PDPE interviews were conducted as a way to understand related to their sense of belonging to the campus community. It is within relational and institutional interactions that belonging and connectedness form and flourish. Retention literature has empirically shown that feelings of belonging at an institutional level are markers of student persistence and retention within a college/university setting (Astin, 1 984 ; Swail et al. 2003; Tinto, 1993). The que stion that is yet unanswered is how is
96 belonging created on college and university campuses, particularly for FGLI students? (Hurtado & Carter, 1997). This study sought to contribute to an understanding of how undergraduate FGLI students document, through PDPE interviews, their transitions to and persistence in the university environm ent, given the additional obstacles recognized by college access and retention scholars e.g., (Oliv i a, 2004; Perna, 200 6 ). The qualitative research approach of PDPE addressed the following research questions: (1) How do FGLI undergraduate students document their transition into and persistence in a four year higher education institution? (2) How do FGLI undergraduate students perceive their educational and social experiences in this institution? (3) What factors do FGLI students attribute to their transitio n and persistence? This chapter is organized into two major sections: transition and persistence. The transition section begins with participant descriptions of higher education related exposure and parent expectations for higher education in the home whi ch both fall under the theme of family dynamics. This theme consists mainly of participant accounts of family dynamics, and how interactions with family members, especially parents, llege. The family attitudes and family behaviors that the participants revealed during our PDPE interviews link directly with their intentions to pursue and receive a college degree. Parental influence on college going was evident for the participants of this study and family expectations about higher education is a theme that permeated throughout the
97 will be explored first; it will lay the foundation and set the ton e for discussing particularly as they relate to higher education. parents and participant s reliance upon high school counselors, teachers, and college outreach programs to provide the necessary guidance for getting into college, including college and scholarship applications, college tours and information about college in general. Cabrera and LaNasa (2000) suggested that high school resources, including teachers and counselors, are of particular importance for low students. The participants of this study indicated the significant role high school resources played in the ir transition to college. Accordingly, this segment of the transition to college section addresses the assistance participants received from high school guidance counselors, other school personnel and the early college outreach initiatives of the Partnersh ip Program that participants described as influential to their decision to transition to college. education was possible for them was the role of finances and the level of educa tion transition to college concerns financial constraint and challenges associated with being a FGLI student. Participants were from low SES homes and the lack of family f inances as well as decreased familial familiarity with academic discourse and college going application/enrollment processes. There was a continued impact of varying degrees as
98 to the role of finances and the lower levels of educational achievement by parents on the persistence of the participants. Economic need and parental lack of postsecondary educ ation and degree attainment. In this way, the section on financial constraint and challenges associated with being a FGLI student spans both transition and persistence. In addition to family dynamics, reliance on high school resources and challenges associ ated with being a FGLI student, themes emerged from the participant interviews concerning their persistence experiences with the Partnership Program and their peer network. The findings reported in the section on persistence convey the support participants received from the Partnership Program and their peer network and how these factors contribute to their persistence toward degree attainment. Each of the belonging on campus The final portion of the persistence section provides a discussion of belonging and connection to the university is a tested marker of student persistence toward de gree attainment. Greater understanding of the perceptions and experiences creating greater institutional commitment on the part of these students through deepening their se nse of belonging. Transition Family Dynamics continued college experiences (Winkle Wagner, 2009). Being equipped with the expectation and aspiration to attend college and the information about what occurs on a
99 college campus within and outside the classroom can largely be influenced by family. A significant finding that permeated throughout the interviews and the photographs participants provided was parental expectations abo ut education and their aspirations for their children to succeed. It appeared that regardless of family educational background and SES, the expectation for participants to receive a college education was expressed within the majority of homes. Coupled with the expectation for a college education were family patterns, attitudes and behaviors that reinforced or hindered aspirations to seek higher education. This section will first examine the manner in which parents evoked this expectation in their children a nd how participants responded to the pressure of parental postsecondary expectations. Though parents of most of the participants held the expectation of postsecondary attainment, in all cases participants were not able to rely on their parents for college preparation. The section follows with findings related to participant accounts of the college preparation experience given that their parents had no exposure to the postsecondary environment and limited postsecondary knowledge. Most participants indicat ed that their parents espoused the need for college during their childhood and that it was an expectation that they would go to college. The first picture discussed in the PDPE interview with Anna on college transition was a picture of her family. Anna des cribed that she began our interview with that picture ot going to college was not an option for me in my
100 was that their parents wanted more fo r them and realized that education was an important factor in being successful. However, there was a shared sentiment amongst the participants that once they reached high school there was little that their parents could do to assist them academically. Ann indicated a desire for their parents to provide the necessary encouragement and advice about college going although the y had no postsecondary experiences. Kemit I just wish she knew more about it but I transition experiences of all college students can be stressful and involve social, emotional and academic adjustments, it may be especially challenging for students from low income backgrounds or those who are first in their families to attend college. First generation students may receive little guidance from their parents in regard to preparing for, transitioning into and persis ting in college because their parents have no direct experience with the process (Ackerball, 2007). When asked about conversations regarding school or education in general, most participants replied that although their parents emphasized the importance of a college education, they rarely had specific conversations about plans for college going or discussions of how to choose an institution. Franko indicated that this was the case for him. Franko really know much about
101 arents lacked basic knowledge of schooling system here so she just goes based on what I tell her in terms of registering and financial aid, applying for it, you know. She parents were definitely interested in what she needed to do to prepare and apply for going process. Grace made the comparison between herself and fellow students attending Southeast Conversations that involved strategies to gain college admission were not parents did discuss the importance of attending college with their children throughout their upbringing. Al though the conversations were not extensive, based on the findings from this study, it is apparent that the dialogue that was held made an impact with the participants. It motivated the participants to want to go to college. Only one participant (Kermit) n oted that he did not think seriously about going to college until the 12 th grade and he was from a home where college was given considerable encouragement.
102 Kermit stated that he began to consider college during the last year of high school. For Kermit, h is mother was a positive force that pushed him during his senior year towards regarding his transition to college for his decision to eventually attend. Kermit stated, when I actually focused on college. I had college in the back of my mind the whole time but it was not solely college; I just did it just because you know my mom expec ted me to Although most parents imparted the importance of college to the participants, not all parents took an active role in encouraging the participants to seek a college education. Alicia seemed especially impacted by what she perceived as a lack of active standardized tests and e but instead I had to spend time explaining to them this process and what I was doing and just letting them than the vast majority of people in your transition to the
103 made the transition to college, her parents are becoming more interested in her college experience. The majority of the participants repor ted that since they transitioned to college their parents have been verbally supportive and the support they receive helps them persist toward degree attainment. All participants reported that their families want them to complete their degrees, even Alicia whose adoptive parents were initially less expressive about college. to pursue a college degree and most had been convinced, by their parents, that it was a necessary credential that would aid in their social mobility. This segment of the transition section focused mainly on what happened in the homes of the participants that reinforced or hindered their transition to higher education. However, while the influence of f thei r sense that they needed to persevere in part for themselves and in part for their families and communities. Angel indicated that his parents were a significant factor in e mother; she never got that college experience so it definitely makes me want to do more ore
104 friends there than I did at the party and she was happy, so I was just happy for her and ons were stressful, they also created a reason to persevere. All of the participants whose parents expressed college expectations acknowledged that this provided motivation integral to their success, not just to aspire to and transition to college, but to also persist. The next section of the chapter will address the assistance participants received from high school guidance counselors, other school personnel and the early college outreach initiatives of the Partnership Program. Participants described these pre college support mechanisms as critical to their aspirations and ability to transition to college. Reliance on High School Resources and Challenges Associated with Being a FGLI Student According to Horn & Nunez (2000), first generation students are les s likely to consult with their parents about how to go about preparing for college while in high school and are more likely to work with teachers or counselors. The parents of the
105 participants in this study appeared to rely more upon school counselors, te achers, and college outreach programs to provide the requisite guidance for college and financial aid applications, college tours and information about college in general. For example, Alicia nd on; all the people that scholarships, a form of financial assistance that every participant in this study received, whole folder at the beginning of our senior year, a whole folder full of scholarship applications, filled with deadlines and dates and everything, and if you wanted it, and if you really wanted to go to college and you had the ambition you would go through siblings to prepar that when filling out the FAFSA she told her mother that she would fill in the part of the form meant to be completed by parents or guardians. According to Anna her guidance counselor was instrumental in terms of providing her with recommendations about college going, assistance with paperwork and information about scholarships and their documents or giving m
106 photograph of his guid ance counselor in his interview, mentioned that he completed 182 community service hours during his senior year of high school. When probed as to why why I did it an d my [guidance] counselor told me about it, too. She told me about how For Alicia, her high school Student Government Association (SGA) advisor E interview about her transition to college, Alicia chose the picture of her SGA advisor as the photograph most transition but she continues to provide support to Al icia even in college. During her involvement in this study, Alicia was diagnosed with cancer. She describes that other than the support she receives from her peer group and her adoptive father, her SGA advisor is the most significant source of support for her continued persistence. Alicia your corner just through your high school career. She continues to be that to this day. 7 ) revealed that programs and practices their educational trajectories. Southeast University administers a number of academic achieveme nt programs to aid students in need of support during college however most of these programs initiate their support efforts once students arrive on campus. One
107 program in particular, the Partnership Program provides assistance to FGLI college students. In many instances the participants in this study had assistance from early college outreach efforts of the Partnership Program. Angel described what the program raised in Miami, described his visit to Southeast University in the ninth grade as his first not even to UM or Miam i or FIU or like even Miami Franko, who relocated from St. Maarten to Miami, Florida with his mother for e first thing I got to do in my freshman year [of high school], I got to do a tour of [Southeast University] thru the [Partnership] because my [high] school is [affiliated with the Partnership Program], and once I saw [Southeast University] I knew that I have to go to Parents, relatives and school personnel encouraged and assisted the participants with their pursuit of higher education; however, involvement in the college success initiative, the Partnersh ip Program, further scope of the Partnership Program has been reduced and no longer includes campus visits and other pre college outreach activities. Angel expressed that he only had
108 knowledge of Southeast University because of his involvement in the Partnership Program. When asked about his reaction to the discontinuation of the Partnership gets me of the pre college outreach component is disturbing, institutional interventions once students arrive on campus are also vitally important for FGLI students. Many of the participants conveyed that their membership in the Partnership Program did reinforce their aspirations to attend college and assisted them in their transition. The discussed further in subsequent sections. Financial Constraint and Challenges Associated with Being a First Generation L ow I ncome S tudent Socio economics plays a significant role in the ability to go to college (Cabrera, Burkum & LaNasa, 2005; Walpole, 200 7 ; Cabrera & LaNasa, 2001). In this study, participants acknowledged that their status as FGLI students was a significant factor in the manner in which family instilled an expectation in their children to pursue higher xpressed ideals in the home that for Anna to make a better life for herself and that she and her mother associated higher education with affluence. Anna voiced,
109 having to live week by week or month by month or whatever with bills and stuff like that, so she wants me to live a comfortable life and the only way you can do that is if you get socioeconomic status is a key factor in college going. For many students who aspire to those aspi rations (Bergerson, 2009). The participants aspired to go to college and knew that it was an expectation of their parents; however, there was still a matter of how it would be paid for. For Grace, the transition to college was made more difficult due to t really have too much money and they would live from paycheck to paycheck. My senior year all I can remember was them talking about bankruptcy so I was just like ok, ev repeatedly Often families from low income neighborhoods have multiple distractions (poverty, crime, lack of educational resources, etc.) that may impede their ability to achiev e academically. However, participants revealed that the financial struggles of their families at times motivated them to go to college and make a better way for themselves. For some of the participants in this study, getting out of their neighborhood and into a higher education institution served as a motivational factor aiding their
110 want brother to neighborhood violence. She reported that this event initiated and cemented her decision to pursue a postsecondary degree. Grace stated that for her, the motiva think about school or like going to college or just being successful until I realized ok, I uge eye continued to influence her postsecondary experience and contributed to her to from a background of poverty and what they considered an unfavorable lifestyle. The impetus and urgency for Anna and G race to make college going a reality was based on seeing something in their home and family context that they did not want to repeat. Distancing was a strategy for moving them out of a bad situation and the distancing vehicle was education. For Anna and Grace, college was their ticket out. Participants were from low SES homes and the lack of family finances and the decreased familiarity with academic discourse and college going culture were quite
111 application/enrollment processes. Kermit compared his transition experience to continuing generation college because she would have personally forced me, put me in the car an d we would Financial planning for college is a complex process. Fo r low income students the ability to secure financial means for college is essential. Often FGLI students may want to attend college but are caught between their desire to attend college, and their ability to afford it (Cole, 2008). All participants rece ived financial assistance to pay for college and in all cases their families were unable to make financial provisions to pay for college. The responsibility for the costs associated with applying for and attending college was left to the participants. Bet ween scholarships, grants, loans and work study, and other forms of employment the participants are able to pursue their education. because you know I was financially stress how I was going to survive here without money, so the scholarships definitely helped Participants admitted that a primary factor in their selection of Southeast University was to get into [Southeast Uni
112 wanted the [Partnership Program] Scholarship and I knew that if I got the [Partnership what I really worked hard f Since most of the participants came from high poverty high schools and all of the participants received scholarships while enrolled in college, their economic need shaped many thoughts, attitudes, and expe riences about their transition to higher education. This segment of the transition section focused mainly on the financial constraints and the challenges participants faced as FGLI students during their transition to college. However, while the influences of these economic and educational at Anna provide the family with financial assistance from the grants, loans and scholarship money Anna received to a coma. Though her mother had been unemploy ed for a few years, for several months after her brother became comatose, her mother was unable to continue her search for stressed in the beginning of this year about losing the house and stuff like that she
113 impact of varying degrees as to the role of finances and the lower levels of educational For example, Anna described on to either graduate school or finding a career will enable me to save money so at feel more comfortable in their living situation or even move them out of the area so they Overall, parents of participants were dissatisfied with their economic and social standing and wanted their children to fare better in life. Parents of all but one parti cipant conveyed that higher education was the best path towards greater opportunities and advancement in life. Participants witnessed their parents working jobs with little to show for their labor; moreover, several participants indicated their parents did not enjoy their line of work or profession and had few job opportunities available to them. Franko et al., (2003) ma intained that when academic goals go unfulfilled, career realities such as lower pay, less security, fewer opportunities and dreams deferred or abandoned, unfortunately result. In this study, participants indicated that their status as FGLI students impac ted their transition into college and they acknowledged the need for support not only during their transition
114 to college but also persisting toward degree attainment. Penrose (2002) notes that there is a greater risk of departure from college prior to degr ee attainment for students who come from low income home environments where parents have not earned college degrees and there is no exposure to academic programs that promote education. Programmatic solutions have been developed to address the challenges w hich FGLI students face in accessing an equitable opportunity to transition to college and to persist (Gandara, 2002; Walpole, 2007). The Partnership Program is an example of one such programmatic initiative. Persistence Partnership Program Support for FG LI Students In addition to facing impediments to college access such as decreased knowledge of admissions and financial aid processes, FGLI college students who transition to postsecondary institutions encounter certain challenges within those environments that affect their persistence and retention. While early educational experiences, parental educational attainment and income clearly shape the college transition process, institutional factors such as campus support systems also influence ition to and persistence in postsecondary education. As discussed previously in the transition section, the participants indicated that they were successful in their transition to college life, in part due to the Partnership Program. Although the partici pants expressed many educational and economic obstacles, the combination of parental encouragement, high school resources and the support and guidance of the Partnership Program assisted them in their transition to the college environment. The following s they arrived on campus and how the program supports their continued persistence.
115 Developing resources and providing support for first generation college students from low income backgrounds is an important consideration for higher education institutions. Colleges and universities who are hedging about the importance or value of targeted access programs should take into account the statements obtained from the participants of thi parents never went to really say much and you basically fend for yourself. So just having that support Many studies have looked at the concept of formal an d informal campus involvement and its relation to retention. According to Reid & Moore (2008), FGLI students need information about the types of academic and social support systems in place on the campus such as math labs, writing centers, counseling cent ers, and the like. The authors convey that it is essential that first generation students be identified and be offered opportunities to participate in groups with other first generation students where they feel comfortable in asking questions. In addition to granting scholarships, the Partnership Program offers academic and social engagement opportunities and besides the financial compartment of it, that is important but for me because they have all these other resources like these workshops for us to go to me a little longer, or other opportunities, research o pportunities, or telling me how I can
116 do this and how I can do that and the ins and outs of college or university that I probably ership Program] is my guide to like the business side if you In addition to the aforementioned support for FGLI college students transition and persistence provided by the Partnership Program, other initiatives of the Partnershi p Program include orientation activities, mandatory college success workshops, access to a virtual community environment (e.g., web communications), enrollment support, and a mandatory semester long college orientation course. Research suggests that interv entions specific to the Partnership Program such as required enrollment in a college orientation course can positively affect academic performance and persistence for FGLI students participating in the program (Kuh et al., 2005; 2008). When asked about th e significance of being enrolled in a college orientation course with other FGLI students, Kermit responded that are other students just like me, so it made me comfortable, I guess, just knowing the fa I Walpole (2007) recommends that creating a supportive environment with peer their persistence. The Part nership Program offers mentoring and participants indicated
117 classes and dealing with fa mily situations or dealing with friends and social life, and just her like my [Partn ership Program] mentor Peer mentors can serve as institutional academic and social navigation guides and this type of support can be particularly important for first generation students (Nora & Crisp 2007 2008; Rendon, 2006). Reid & Moore (2008), suggest that connecting entering first generation students with first generation juniors and senior level students as mentors would be beneficial. Peer to peer mentoring is another component of the Partner ship Program. Alicia chose to include a picture of her peer mentor in her PDPE good abou can share she just reminds me especially about continuing to keep going and what I can do to help me keep going
118 support me if Peer mentoring was an avenue for the participants to gain access to information and emotional support. Peer mentoring also provided an outreach opportunity for participants. Kermit These statements by participants are echoed in t he literature, which indicates peer mentors serve as connecting links to help less experienced students get connected to their institution both in and out of the classroom. The persistence of the participants in this study is in contrast to research that h as found that FGLI students who attend college are less likely to persist to graduation (Walpole, 2007). Many researchers have studied how social class relates to college 108). Measuring the effectiveness of college access and success initiatives is critically important for those who are investing in programs and time of study did not attempt to provide empirical evidence of the efficacy of the Partnership Program, the statements made by participants indicated that their involvem ent in the Partnership Program positively impacted their transition to and persistence in Southeast University. In addition to the financial assistance, the college success workshops, the college orientation course and the mentoring provided by the Partne rship Program
119 Another turn toward higher education for the participants of this study occurred when they were able to meet influential peers who could act as supports to help them i nto college and/or to continue there. These individuals often had a dramatic influence on how or if a student would be able to pursue the path to college and persist. Angel participants admitted that seeing their peers transition to and persist in college further their parents, and supported by the Partnership Program, their desire to pursue higher education was further reinforced by their classmates. Peer Network Support Hurtado and Carter (1997) found that at large, research institutions underrepresented and marginalized students use peer organization membership to achieve personal goals, make sense of campus environments, and to engender a sense of belonging to campus c ommunities. All participants expressed enthusiasm for college as a way to become immersed within different social and intellectual worlds. Perhaps because of this, none of the participants described social aspects of college as peripheral to their lives. Alicia reflected retrospectively on the photographs of friends As seen in the literature on persistence, students who form connections with peers early in their college career have a higher likelihood to persist in their attendance (Tinto, 1993). Anna describes that when she first gained admission to Southeast
120 University she was sc ared but then she learned a peer was also accepted at Southeast helpe d to know a fellow first generation student from his high school was joining him in the College of Engineering. rter than than him and some stuff that he does better than me, and we always challenge each other. When we were in math class we used to make math o can do it the fastest, and that has helped According to Hurtado and Carter (1997), studies have found that transition experiences that encourage the formation of peer groups and adjustment to college can be facilitated by institutional interven tion. engaged social experience had to do either directly or indirectly with their involvement Program] and I met some people thr u my organization, the organizations that I am in now and just going out and talking to people at different events. And I made friends thru space on campus. He descr Program] students there. And I have this friend named Dominique; Dominique is a really
121 there and meet people over the re, so definitely it added to me transitioning here and Kermit indicated that the peer network he developed and the messages about the importance of involvement conveyed by the Partnership Program did impact his early attachment to the cam that relationship buildi ng took time and depended on being part of particular spaces on campus that were conducive to social interaction. In his PDPE interview on transition, building on South where everybody hangs out. I saw a couple of my friends there and I just sat there with socialize, so I Tierney and Venegas (2006) suggest that peers have the potential to create what helps create a culture of suc social dynamics that take place in school, access to college, the interactions of specific groups within a sc participants of this study, Tierney and Venegas (2006) notion of kinship as contributing to college going extends beyond college access to include persistence. Alicia shared that among her p eer group college
122 friends. Grace provide d a picture of an influential friend who she quoted as saying similar dynamic of accountability and support for college persistence among his peers. we need t Participants described their peer network as central to their transition and persistence in college. Students sought an engaged social experience in college and e to get vement in the Partnership Program as a primary influence for participants to seek a college education, it also demonstrates that many of their successful college transition and persistence experiences were promoted by their network of peers. For the most p art, the parents of participants provided the foundation for aspiring to attend college, but much of the support needed to transition into and persist in college came from the Peer network connections is where s ense of belonging plays out on a day to day, person to person level. In the final segment of
123 the persistence section I will present the findings of this study associated with Sense of Belonging Researchers have typically conceived of sense of belonging as part of the psychosocial processes involved with the adjustment and transition to college. Different g. In the 1997). Sense of Belonging for FGLI students Langhout, Drake, and Rosselli (2009) reported that undergraduates who their peers who identified as middle class or upper researchers assert that the primary distincti on between first and continuing generation students is the perceived alienation from their families, from their peers, and from the campus community (Ishitani, 2006; Pike & Kuh, 2005; Penrose, 2002). Alicia indicated that the circumstances of her childhoo d, specifically her experience of homelessness, did have bearing on her sense of belonging. She stated, ho Participants in this study rarely reported alienation because they felt intimidated, inadequate, and devalued due to their social class backgrounds and first generation
124 status. However, Kermit described that becoming connected on campus and developing a sense of belonging could be challenging as a FGLI stud ent. He disclosed, with these advisors sometimes they expect you to know certain stuff about college knowledge about college like you should, so it definitely is a barrier The participants all displayed a sense of achievement and accomplishment for not only being enrolled and p ersisting in college but for also accomplishing what research might indicate as unlikely. They understood that many students from similar backgrounds and circumstances often did not fare as well when it came to postsecondary transition and persistence. Se nse of Belonging, Identity and Culture Student affairs research calls for the investigation of student niche creation and points of belonging, particularly for underrepresented and marginalized students. Practitioner writings often suggest specialized spac es where identity and culture can be explored and celebrated (Welch, 2009). Southeast University hosts several cultural centers for students. Angel indicated this space was significant to his sense of almost the same as me, like being Hispanic on such a big campus and just finding the Hispanic Student Association was involvement in the Hispanic cultural center on campus. He s Hispanic Heritage Month that year. The Hispanic Student Association has been a really
125 However, the notion that often FGLI students feel socially isolated from pee rs who have been exposed to the culture of higher education was not substantiated by the participants in this study. Angel indicated a sense of kinship with all his fellow students when he stated, those goals, so I feel like we all have the same goals; goals in min their way to expose themselves to students who did not share similar experiences. government senate here I started mee ting new faces and I was like yeah, I need to give s necessary for me to be involved with the Black community sense for me to run straight to something that I know and I feel comfortable with and I Resea rchers have reviewed interaction and differential impacts of academic and social experiences across groups (Antonio, 2001; Nora, Cabrera, Hegedorn, & Pascarella, 1996). Antonio found that frequent interracial interaction among students may be more importa nt in developing cultural knowledge than involvement in more formal activities such as cultural awareness workshops (p. 593). The statements included above by participants indicate that these participants actively pursued interactions with peers who did n ot share their racial or ethnic background. These statements also indicate these participants entered the university with some
126 understanding of complex issues of diversity. Honoring individual histories and cultures while at the same time developing progra ms and services that help students become involved offers a strategic way to increase belonging for FGLI students. Sense of Belonging and Support According to Hurtado and Carter (1997) it is the early experiences of college that are key in determining how and whether students find their place in the campus community. Franko attested to the impact the Partnership Program had on his sense of belonging. He indicated that this sense of belonging initia ted through his involvement with the Partnership Program. something that I would choose. I chose it because all my friends that are here now from my high school, they were in [the Partnership Program] for four not at [Southea emphasized the importance of having a home away from home and a feeling of family family back home, connections created through relationship building and his personal involvement in the Partnership Program. Photo graphs provided by him and the other participants supported this perspective as well. Overall, participants did not express difficulty finding their home on campus.
127 Chapter Summary Researchers know from qualitative studies that the context of college going experiences is of particular relevance for FGLI students who cross socioeconomic and educational barriers to finish college. This study does two things to advance current research. First, it seeks to add to our understanding about the specific populatio n of FGLI students for whom college transition and retention efforts are most needed. Second, unlike previous studies, this research asks students in open ended PDPE interviews what factors were most salient in making their transition to college and the d ecision to persist. Knowing all of the risk factors associated with being a FGLI college student does not provide a complete understanding of the phenomenon of their decreased educational attainment. For that, we must go to the students for answers. Alth ough research has provided scholars and practitioners with several ideas about what variables are associated with the decreased educational attainment of FGLI students, such as individual demographic factors, certain patterns of enrollment and attendance, and a lack of social and academic integration, there is still not enough information about the transition and persistence of those FGLI students who stay in college. It is not enough to assume that FGLI students simply lack the economic and educational re sources needed to succeed in college, or experience certain barriers that make college transition and persistence difficult for them. This is too simplistic, because lives cannot be understood separate from the rich contexts. The purpose of this research is to describe and understand the perspectives of FGLI college students and the decisions they make about their education. Through in depth engagement with these students in PDPE interviews the educational life paths and the meanings they ascribe to thei r transition and persistence experiences can be more fully understood. In
128 Chapter five I will discuss in detail the implications of these findings, the limitations of the work and the impact these findings will have for educational practice.
129 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION The six participants in this research study were FGLI college students who were enrolled in an academic achievement program (Partnership Program) at Southeast University, a research extensive, large, public, PWI. The Partnership P rogram is designed to increase first generation student participation in postsecondary study. The transition and persistence in order to understand their attitudes and percept ions about postsecondary education, and the ways in which they developed a sense of belonging to the campus community. This research study used the qualitative visual research method of PDPE and employed purposeful sampling and in depth, open ended PDPE interviews to collect data from the FGLI college student participants. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim, and then coded using Dedoose, a qualitative analysis software. Codes were developed based on the research and interview question s, and once each interview was coded reports were generated and general themes were compiled. Research Questions The qualitative research approach of PDPE will address the research questions: (1) How do FGLI undergraduate students document their transition into and persistence in a four year higher education institution? (2) How do FGLI undergraduate students perceive their educational and social experiences in this institution? (3) What factors do FGLI students attribute to their transition and persistence ? The themes that were developed from the data collection first explain the
130 initiated and sustained. The central themes explored in this study concern the lity and desire to transition to, and persist in college. The data revealed interactions, in addition to the support mechanisms that impacted their transition to college an d their continued persistence. This chapter begins with a review of the findings. The themes derived from the school resources, and how they were able to transition t o college and persist with the support of the Partnership Program. The following sections will convey how family dynamics and the involvement and assistance from high school counselors and advisors, along with the support of the Partnership Program shaped attitudes, perceptions and abilities to pursue a college degree. Additionally, the review to and persistence in college. Embedded in the discuss ion of the findings, is a larger discussion of how these findings are reflected in the literature. The next section of the chapter is dedicated to a discussion of two selected institutional initiatives reviewed in chapter two that were found to be signifi cant to the transition and persistence of the FGLI college student participants of this study; orientation programs and financial aid. Subsequently, an overview of the literature on the theoretical framework of sense of belonging is presented along with a summary of the findings of this study related to sense of belonging. The implications for FGLI convey the implications that this study can have on practice, policy and future research.
131 Summary of Findings The following is a summary of the findings that were determined to be the primary themes that were both articulated by the study participants and reflected in photographs they provided for the study. Information gather ed from the participants implied that parental and peer network interactions significantly impacted their transition to and persistence in college. In addition, data collected for this study demonstrates how certain support mechanisms have assisted the pa rticipants on the path towards postsecondary degree attainment. Throughout their upbringing, and particularly when they were young, most participants confirmed that the prodding and constant emphasis on studying, performing well in school and going to coll ege that they received from their parents firmly shaped their attitude about education and earning a college degree. The findings also revealed that due to the struggles that the participants saw their parents undergo and that they themselves experienced they internalized the need to be successful and do better in life than their parents. This was reinforced by their parents as well. The participants and their parents determined that obtaining a college degree could benefit the participants economically, socially and professionally. All of the participants transitioned to postsecondary education and have persisted beyond the first year of college. None of the parents of participants provided the participants with supplemental college preparation activitie s, such as study skills workshops or SAT prep courses. However, most parents did encourage the participants to attend college. School counselors and teachers and the college outreach initiatives of the Partnership Program provided support critical for col lege going as well. Many participants expressed that their parents could not provide college preparation support to them because they were not
132 familiar with the college going experience and did not have the requisite skills to assist them. High school coun selors and teachers and the college outreach initiatives of the Partnership Program did however provide academic and college going assistance to the counselors and teacher s and the support of the Partnership program impacted the about working and studying hard and earning good grades provided the needed support and encouragement that furth Parents, in particular, espoused the need for higher education and although they became less involved (with school work and the college preparation process in particular) as the participants gr ew, they continued to express the importance of a college education. The constant reinforcement by the parents of most participants and the support from high school counselors and teachers and the Partnership Program appeared to inspire the participants wi th a vital level of motivation and instill the tools necessary to pursue a college degree. Without this reinforcement and support participants may not have pursued higher education. The following sections will theorize from the data how family dynamics and the involvement and assistance from high school counselors and teachers, along with support from the Partnership Program, shaped the participants attitudes, perceptions and abilities to pursue a college degree. The final summary of findings section will discuss the importance of peer network Family Dynamics
133 to coll ege (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2001). The majority of the participants knew from early ages that a college education was expected by their parents. Walpole (2007) found that family support can develop a foundation for FGLI students to be successful in college, whi ch appears to have also happened with the students in this study. She further argues that because FGLI students are challenged academically, socially and financially and also may face family resistance, their sense of belonging in the college environment i social mobility (Bedsworth et al., 2006; Bowen et al., 2005; Pascarella and Terenzini, 199 previous educational attainment and experiences and is also dependent on successful attainment, college transition and college persistence based on their SES, on whether their parents attended or graduated from college, and on their social class (Walpole, 2007). In this study the majority of the participants acknowledged the impact their parents had on their desire and ability to go to college. This study demonstrated that parents and family provided encouragement and this promoted the college transition success of the participants. Expectations for a college education were constantly advo cated by the parents and families of the majority of participants. Understanding that ingenuity was necessary in acquiring the knowledge, skills and dispositions to gain was
134 providing early encouragement for college going, the parents were contributing to the admissions. Previous research has indicated that low SES parents are more likely to view a high school diploma as the norm for their children than are high SES parents, to McD onough, 1997). More recent research indicates that while FGLI parents often aspire for their children to attend community college, high SES parents articulate but increa singly as graduation from a prestigious college (Bowen et al., 2005; Walpole, 2007). However, in this study, the participants expressed postsecondary aspirations that went beyond community college. Angel clarified his postsecondary aspirations involved get ting out of Miami and attending a four year university. He compared himself to his older sister, who attended a community college for a couple semesters and then dropped out to work full study demonstrated that the majority of the participants thought about going to college at an early age and fared well in their academic studies, making them eligible for entrance into a four year, research extensive university such as Southeast University. pursuit of postsecondary education, there was no strategic planning about college
135 maintain good grades in order for them to go to college had a significant impact on how they p erformed academically; however, there was no dialogue about approaches on how to get to college. Many parents did not have exposure to information that promoted college, but knew that good grades were an important factor in being able to go to college and pushed their children to perform well in school. Penrose (2002) acknowledges that there is a lack of exposure and familiarity with the postsecondary educated are viewed as a sour ce of information and students are more likely to seek information from parents who earned college degrees (Horn & Nunez, 2000; Ishitani, 2005). As a result, first generation students are less likely to consult with their parents regarding course selection and the college admissions processes (Horn & Nunez, 2000; Ishitani, 2005). This research was supported in part by the participants who acknowledged that although their parents encouraged them and expressed the importance of a college education, they rare ly had specific conversations about plans for college going or discussions of how to apply for and choose an institution. There was a shared sentiment amongst the participants that once they reached high school there was little that their parents could do to assist them academically or in the college never went to college; they never had t
136 Research (Cabrera & LaNas a, 2001) has also demonstrated that when support is provided by parents, teachers, administrators, peers and the community, students are pursue and obtain a college degr ee is multifaceted and the aspiration to attend college can begin early in life when there is parental and school based support for college going (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2001). Overwhelmingly, families provided support to the participants and appeared to assis t them as best they could. Simply reinforcing the need to attend college was all that many families could do to support their children. Most of the parents of the participants came to know and appreciate the value of a college education and consistently pr omoted the need to have one. The relationship between socioeconomic level and parental involvement appears ultimate enrollment in a post secondary institution (Lareau 1987 ). The results from this secondary education. Most of the families of the participants did articulate the value of pursuing higher education; and although the parents could n ot contribute financially and did not fully understand college life and educational strategies, they did value a college education and understood its importance. This was apparent through the interviews with participants and in the photographs selected by participants for inclusion in this study. Every participant included a picture of their parents in their PDPE interview. For all but one participant support for college going was consistently communicated by parents. Parents of participants and the partic ipants themselves were reliant on the
137 student participants in dialogue during the PDPE interviews on their transition to college and evidenced by the photographs they pro vided, many of which included high school teachers and guidance counselors. Parents of participants did not discuss specific course selection or assist with homework once the participants were in high school. The ondary preparation to the school counselors, teachers and advisors and the college outreach efforts of the Partnership Program. The parents of participants and the participants themselves relied on these resources to assist them in making choices about c ollege selection, navigating the college application process, applying for financial aid and scholarships, and college visits. Reliance on High School Resources for College Enrollment and Participation FGLI students disproportionately attend high schools that do not focus on preparing students for college and have fewer counseling resources (Walpole, 2007; Watt, 2007). In addition, FGLI students are more likely than higher SES students to lack access to rigorous course work and to be tracked away from hon ors and advanced placement courses (Adelman, 2006; Cabrera and La Nasa, 2000; Perna, 2006; Terenzini et al., 2001). Due to their access to rigorous coursework and by using several supplemental college preparation strategies, students without economic and e ducational challenges tend to gain access to universities, and particularly to elite institutions, at higher rates than their FGLI peers (Bowen et al., 2005, 2009; Karabel, 2005; Martin et al., 2005; Walpole, 2007). These supplemental strategies include edging their admission bets by applying to large numbers of colleges, using test preparation services to improve their entrance exam scores, and employing private
138 strate gies require college going savvy and consume considerable investments of money, neither of which FGLI students possess in abundance. Cabrera and LaNasa (2000) suggested that high school resources, including teachers and counselors, are of particular import ance for low students. The authors indicated that parental involvement in conjunction with school helping FGLI students complete a college p reparatory curriculum in high school and enroll in college. Parents who are college educated are viewed as a source of information and students are more likely to seek information about college going from parents who earned college degrees (Ishitani, 2005 ). In this instance, the participants did not have their parents as resources and knew that they needed to seek information elsewhere. Because of this lack of information in the home, and a lack of financial resources to afford supplemental college prepar ation strategies, FGLI students are less likely to pursue a college degree and are at a greater risk for not persisting to degree attainment than their continuing generation counterparts. As previously noted, often parents of FGLI students do not believe that they can significantly contribute to their background to assist them. The parents of the participants in this study and the participants themselves appeared to rely more upo n school counselors, teachers, and college outreach program initiatives to provide the requisite guidance for college and financial aid applications, college tours and information about college in general. The support participants received from parents and the college going assistance they were
139 able to obtain via resources in their high schools promoted postsecondary education and guided them in the process of transitioning into college. Although research (Bui & Khanh, 2002; Cole, 200 8 ; Walpole, 2007) repor ts that students from low SES backgrounds have lower educational aspirations, persistence rates and educational attainment than their continuing generation peers, many of the participants in this study realized that if they challenged themselves in school and interacted with influential peers and high school personnel, they were positioning themselves for gaining college admissions and increasing their ability to manage a college curriculum. They prepared themselves by enrolling in advanced placement and ho nors courses in high school, by seeking support from high school resources and by participating in a college outreach program. Participants relied on postsecondary preparation assistance from school counselors, teachers and advisors and the college outreac h efforts of the Partnership Program. Typically, the goal of early college outreach programs for FGLI students is to provide these students with the skills, knowledge, and general college preparation needed to enter and succeed in college. Pre college p rograms are designed generally to increase college enrollment rates of underrepresented students and specifically to provide underrepresented students with the opportunity to develop the college related skills, knowledge, aspirations, and preparation that are required for postsecondary enrollment and attainment (Tierney & Hagedorn, 2002; Perna, 2006). The high school outreach component of the Partnership Project was significant in that several of the participants were exposed to Southeast University on a c ollege tour sponsored and organized by the program. The Partnership Project also provided resources related to
140 navigating the college application process and applying for financial aid and volvement in the Partnership Program that has in many ways facilitated their transition to college and supports their continued persistence. Partnership Program Support for FGLI Students Penrose (2002) notes that there is a greater risk of departure from c ollege prior to degree attainment for students who come from low income home environments where parents have not earned college degrees and there is no exposure to academic programs that promote education. Programmatic solutions have been developed to addr ess the challenges which FGLI students face in accessing an equitable opportunity to transition to college and to persist (Gandara, 2002; Walpole, 2007). Several authors (Bergerson, 2009; Langout, Drake, and Rosselli, 2009; Perna and Titus, 2004; Terenzin i et al., 2001; Walpole, 2007) focused on the gap between the aspirations and access to mentors who came from similar backgrounds and for whom college provided increased econ omic opportunity (Bergerson, 2009). Walpole recommends that creating college transitions. The Partnership Program offers peer mentoring and participants indicated that this was a significant source of support. Reid & Moore (2008), suggest that connecting entering first generation students with first generation juniors and senior level students as mentors would be beneficial. Peer counselors can answer questions about a school t hat the administration may be more hesitant to state explicitly, such as
141 1989, p. 40). Peer to peer mentoring is a component of the Partnership Program that participants reported was instrumental in their college transition and persistence. Like their high SES peers, when first generation students have access to support such as mentoring t hey too are more likely to successfully transition to college and persist to degree attainment. The persistence of the participants in this study is in contrast to research that has found that FGLI students who attend college are less likely to persist to graduation (Bowen et al., 2005, 2009; Walpole, 2007). The verbal accounts of participants and the photographs they provided during the interview process suggests that involvement in nd persistence in Southeast University. According to Lohfink and Paulsen (2005), helping students discover and understand opportunities for success in terms of the academic, the social, and the financial dimensions of higher education institutions are impo rtant and mutually reinforcing. The Partnership Program initiative was designed to support the higher education success of FGLI students by intervening in issues such as financial hardship, lack of college knowledge, and reduced engagement on campus that a re perceived as key barriers to the college transition and persistence of FGLI students. In addition to the financial assistance and college success workshops, engagement opportunities and peer mentoring provided by the Partnership Program created upward movement in the factor that led toward higher education engagement for the participants of this study occurred when students were able to meet influential peers wh o could act as supports to help them into college and/or to continue there.
14 2 Peer Network Tierney and Venegas (2006) suggest that peers have the potential to create what that as central to their transition and persistence in college. The relationships that the participants built with college going peers appeared to promote their persi stence to degree attainment. In general, participants reported that their peers often had a dramatic influence on how they pursued the path to college and persisted. Some of the participants admitted that seeing their peers transition to and persist in c ollege further parents, and supported by the Partnership Program, their desire to pursue higher education was further reinforced by their college going peers. Hurtado a nd Carter (1997) found that FGLI college students who frequently discussed course work with other students outside class (in both the second and third years) had a higher sense of belonging in the third year of college. Additionally, the authors found tha t at large research institutions, underrepresented and marginalized students use peer organization membership to achieve personal goals, make sense of campus environments, and to engender a sense of belonging to campus communities. The participants in thi s study described that they engaged in a substantial amount of peer interaction and that these interactions were both academic and extracurricular. These contribute to the ir development of a sense of belonging in college. either directly or indirectly with their involvement with the Partnership Program. The
143 FGLI students in this study appeare d to have a sense of community with other groups of FGLI students. As seen in Chapter Four, several participants noted the comfort they feel just seeing someone they know from the Partnership Program out in the general university environment. Research ind icates that FGLI college students are likely to feel more comfortable in sharing their experiences with other FGLI students than with non FGLI students (Orb, 2004). The participants described ample opportunities for formal and informal interaction with ot her FGLI college students as a result of their involvement in the Partnership Program. Personal support systems and peer relations have an influential effect upon the sym generation students often sense displeasure on the part of acquaintances, and feel an uncomfortable separation from the culture in which lege transition and persistence of FGLI students (Hsiao). The notion that often FGLI students feel socially isolated from peers who have been exposed to the culture of higher education was not substantiated by the participants in this study. Participants described that for the most part they felt surrounded by students who valued going to college, much like they did. The combination of encouragement from the parents of participants and the assistance of high school resources formed the foundation for aspir ing to attend college, but much of the support needed to transition into and persist indicated that financial aid and college orientation efforts were additional factors that promoted their success.
144 Selected Institutional Initiatives: Orientation Programs and Financial Aid Mitigating gaps in college success for FGLI students requires policymakers and practitioners to better comprehend the sources of such gaps and the prog rammatic interventions that can effectively address them. The next section of the chapter is dedicated to two institutional initiatives that were found to be significant to the transition and persistence of the FGLI college student participants of this st udy: orientation programs and financial aid. Orientation Programs It is important that postsecondary institutions have programming in place to help students become familiar with campus that are easily accessible to FGLI students. Activities can include o rientations and transition programs that serve to bring FGLI students together and promote awareness of campus resources. Langhout, Drake, & Rosselli (2009) suggest that these programs should include making all of the rules of the academy visible for those who might not already know how to navigate this system. Such programs could introduce students to faculty, staff, and peers familiar with FGLI student experiences who can serve as role models and mentors, especially as students are becoming acquainted wit h the university culture. These types of student programs can facilitate the development of social support networks, which may decrease FGLI designed first year seminar or college orientation c ourse can serve this purpose (Kuh et al., 2005; 2008). In addition to the aforementioned support for FGLI college students transition and persistence provided by the Partnership Program, other initiatives of the Partnership Program include orientation acti vities, mandatory college success workshops, access to a virtual community environment (e.g., web communications), enrollment support, and a
145 mandatory semester long college orientation course. Research suggests that interventions specific to the Partnershi p Program such as required enrollment in a college orientation course can positively affect academic performance and persistence for FGLI students participating in the program (Kuh et al., 2005; 2008). According to Reason (2009), research suggests that par ticipation in orientation programs or seminars and the academic skills and social networks students acquire as a result are powerful predictors of student persistence and success. When FGLI students do not participate in such programs they miss an importa nt opportunity to learn 44). Institutional interventions, such as orientation p rograms have potential to support FGLI students through their transition to college. Thus, orientation programs serve as an important institutional mechanism in efforts to retain FGLI college students (Braxton, 2001). Financial Aid Financial aid package s for many incoming students are often a combination of federal and state governmental grant aid, and subsidized and unsubsidized student backgrounds, while others fo cus aid heavily on students from low and moderate costs of college may strain already stretched financial resources of the family. FGLI students by definition have fewer financial resources available to them, and several studies indicate that these students have more financial concerns than do their high
146 present study, the focus is on FGLI st udents who attend college full time in their home their financial aid status. FGLI students who are dependent on parental financial support is an area of particular c oncern in part because the traditional parental financial safety nets are often not available to FGLI college students (Eitel & Martin, 2009). Students from families with higher family incomes tend to be more knowledgeable than their FGLI peers about th e costs of college and financial aid and are more likely to select schools that have higher tuition costs. Low SES students by o their high SES peers ( Terenzini et al., 2001; Walpole, 2007). Terenzini and colleagues noted that low SES students reported that financial aid was an important part of their postsecondary decisions more often than did their higher SES peers at two year and public four year colleges. They also reported that low SES students cited when asked why they chose to attend a par ticular institution (Terenzini et al., 2001). Financial constraints and challenges associated with being a FGLI student were persistence in college. Participants discusse d the obstacles they faced throughout attainment. Family income is the greatest predictor of college enrollment even when ability is considered (Thayer, 2000). The participants aspired to go to college and knew that it was an expectation of their parents; however, there was still a matter of how it
147 would be paid for. All participants received financial assistance to pay for college and in all cases, their families ma de no financial provisions to pay for college; the responsibility for college finances was left to the participants. Participants all were recipients of financial aid, and were awarded scholarships and received support from college success initiatives to p romote their transition and persistence. Between scholarships, grants, loans, work study, and other types of employment the participants are able to pursue their education. Based on the findings of this study, aid has positively affected the persistence d ecisions of the participants. Without it, many would not be able to continue and they articulated its significance in their ability to attend and graduate from college. The participants often obtained the information they needed about college and aid thr ough their school counselors, teachers, and college outreach program initiatives. Little information was obtained by way of their parents. Providing aid, and information on aid, is critical for FGLI students (Walpole, 2007). Bowen, Kurtzweil & Tobin (200 5) from low income families, and those from families with no college experience, in ibe that decisions concerning the allocation of institutional aid is one effort at the institutional (Bowen et al., 2005, p. 253). As mentioned earlier, one of the most important factors in persistence research for FGLI students is their engagement and integration or sense of belonging on campus. Adequate financial aid frees FGLI students to fully engage in activities on their
148 campuses. In other words, financial aid may a ct as a mechanism to increase FGLI students sense of belonging as they are afforded the opportunity to become fully integrated into the their institutions with the time to interact with peers and participate in campus social functions (Nora, Barlow & Crisp 2006). Concurrently, students are also able to more fully engage in academic activities, both in the classroom and on campus. Behaviors such as taking part in study groups, developing a network of peers, or times impossible if the student is constantly worried about money or if the student feels that he or she must work to make make use of academic resources and develop a s ense of belonging to campus that Kuh, et al. (2008) found that student engagement in educationally purposeful activities during the first year of college had a positive, st atistically significant effect on persistence, even after controlling for background characteristics. An adequate financial their social and academic integration on campus leading to an increased likelihood of persisting to degree completion. This chapter has reviewed and summarized the findings reported in chapter four and highlighted some of the institutional features and programming that promote FGLI progress through, and graduation from higher education institutions. A central aspect of the FGLI student transition to and persistence in postsecondary education involves negotiating a sense of belonging. The increasing number of FGLI students on college campuses across the U.S. presents itself as a
149 valuable point of analysis for research that seeks insight into how sense of belonging is negotiated in an educational environment (Orbe, 2004). With an eye toward investigating the college transition and per sistence experiences of the FGLI college student participants and how they developed a sense of belonging in a large, public, research extensive university setting, this next section proceeds first by providing a basic overview of the theoretical framework of sense of belonging and related research. The section follows with a summary of the findings of this study related to sense of Sense of Belonging Sense of belonging in the c ollege student literature has been shown to be an ( Bowma n et al., 2008 ). Researchers have typically conceived of sense of belonging as part of the psychosocial processes i nvolved with the adjustment and transition to college. Different types of social and academic interactions (e.g., memberships, affective elements in that the individual's cognitive evaluation of his or her role in relation to the group results in an affective orms of social interaction (academic and social) enhance an individual's sense of affiliation and Carter, 1997, p. 338). The authors urge further research is needed to determine
150 in various fields of study; in classrooms wh ere faculty require study groups; and in other institutionally based structures, such as living learning residential programs, that may be helpful for researchers to develop the concept of membership further by identifying activities that bring about a greater sense of Hurtado and Carter, adding to the bo dy of research by closely examining the activities that produced a sense of belonging and affiliation in student participants. Statements made by participants showed that membership within the Partnership Program increased feelings of belonging for studen ts. college provided a sense of loss as well as a sense of gain. Researchers conveyed that first generation students often manifest confusion and conflict as a result of the cul tural attitudes that are associated with college by their families and the need to remain included and associated with the culture from which they came (London; Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella & Nora, 1996). Rendon (199 3 ) wrote about the struggles generation Latino students faced in negotiating the cultural differences between their home environments and the college choice process and college environments. Rendon described her own difficulty in maintaining their cultures of origin during t he educational process and the pain of feeling caught between the two cultures. It is interesting to note the overwhelming research indicating that elements of the especially a Thayer, 2000;
151 Walpole, 2007; Welch, 2009; Winkle never quit reason for the disparity in educational outcomes for FGLI students could be negative experiences that students are having on college campuses, particularly at predominantly White institutions (Winkle Wagner). The statements given by participants during interviews indicate that participants did not perceive Southeast University as a hostile racial environment and that they actively pursued interactions with peers who did not share their racial or ethnic background. The navigation of these boundary spaces for students can be seen as opportunities for crossing borders and increasing interaction among students. The Partnership Program was created to bridge these borders, to increase o pportunities for interaction and to create spaces of home for FGLI students. A one size program or event does not fit all students equally. Based on this college li fe, in part due to the Partnership Program which is designed to assist in their transition and persistence. Although the participants faced challenges as FGLI students, and social guidance and financial assistance of the Partnership Program provided the necessary foundation for them to successfully transition and persist within the college environment. In this study the majority of the participants did not reveal challenges with developing a sense of belonging on campus. The findings from this study do not support the conclusions that were made by the aforementioned researchers. None of
152 the participants expressed confusion or conflict about leaving home for college because o f negative attitudes of their family. Their experiences were in contrast to those of students who experience this home/campus tension, such as in the study conducted by Winkle Wagner (2009). She describes that the participants in her study grappled with im mense expectations from their families or home communities to succeed in college. Winkle Wagner suggests that in part, these expectations stemmed from the fact that most of her participants were first generation students. Regardless of the reason for these expectations, Winkle Wagner emphasized that the participants in her study as a motivation to lift up their families and to care for them even while they were away. While the participants of this study acknowledged the pressure of parental expectations and other pressure brought about by family circumstances that could at times be a negative influence, it often provided a motivation to persevere. Many of the participants e generation students often take pride in bringing honor and respect to their families and being the first to earn a college degree. Once students are admitted, institutions can work to ensure that s tudents make a successful transition to the campus academically and socially. Hightower (2007) found that FGLI students who transition to supportive institutional environments with specifically designed programs for them perform equally as well and someti mes interventions for student success (Welch, 2009, pg. 142).
153 Recomme ndations for Practitioners Given the numerous sources of influences, no single aspect can be isolated as providing the answer to increasing institutional retention and graduation rates for FGLI students. Thayer (2000) clarifies that while retention strat egies that work for FGLI students are likely to work for the general population, by contrast, if these strategies do not account for the characteristics and circumstances common among FGLI students, more universal strategies will not be as successful with them. Practitioner support for Parent and Family Involvement Penrose (2002) notes that there is a greater risk of departure from college prior to degree attainment for students who come from low income home environments where parents have not earned coll ege degrees and there is no exposure to academic programs that promote education. Programmatic solutions have been developed to address the challenges which FGLI students face in accessing an equitable opportunity to transition to college and to persist (G andara, 2002; Walpole, 2007). For example, practitioners interested in strategies serving FGLI students could focus on implementing communal expectations of uplift with the ex Winkle Wagner, 2009, p. 24) Additionally practitioners could provide support for students that would enable them to successfully navigate their family responsibilities (Winkle Wagner). Some campuses have incorpor ated parents into campus activities, asking them to serve on advisory boards or to serve as volunteers for campus events (Wartman & Savage, 2008). Practitioners could also organize parent training sessions where parents could learn more about the norms of campuses. Those interested in
154 seriously the responsibility of understanding the communities from which students Wagner, p. 25). Practitioner support for K 12 Co llaboration and College Outreach Initiatives clearer articulation between high school and college and provide information about choices, requirements, time lines, and financial a preparation experiences and activities that practitioners could collaborate with principals and school leaders to provide might include college field trips, college student shadowing experiences, encounters such as infor mation sessions on the college campus, college student panels, and activities that partner students with university students and staff in various community outreach projects (Pitre, 2009). Practitioners can also seek out partnerships with the K 12 educati onal system through college readiness initiatives. The Partnership Program is an example of one such initiative. Retention strategies for college students should be designed with the special circumstances of first generation and low income students in mind Strategies designed to primarily meet the needs of the general student population do not consider the characteristics of first generation and low income students (Thayer, 2000). College outreach and success initiatives such as the Partnership Program ar e designed with the special circumstances of first generation and low income students in mind. The Partnership Program is equipped to provide the requisite financial support and guidance through orientation activities, mentoring, social engagement opportun ities and college success activities for students as they matriculate through their freshman to their senior year at Southeast University. The program also provides information and resources to assist students in gaining graduate and professional school ad mission. Kermit provided
155 that they hold are very informative because they talk about stuff that I actually need to know about campus, about my major, and about stuff that I need to do like community service; the stuff that I basically need to graduate and stuff that I need to know to get into graduate school. I heard about graduate school through [the Partnership Program], ership program helps FGLI historically departed from college after their first year. The current resources offered by the Partnership Program are available to FGLI studen ts once they have successfully been admitted to Southeast University; however, additional outreach efforts are needed for those FGLI students who are still in high school and developing aspirations toward attending college. Therefore, if practitioners wan t to improve educational access, experiences, and outcomes for FGLI students they can work to develop initiatives with similar elements of support and ensure these resources extend into K 12 schools. Angel advocated that these initiatives begin as early as need it in schools and we do need to start as early as middle school. We need to start college, getting through high school and then involvement with the Partnership Program has illustrated the potential impact these types of initiatives can have for FGLI students in terms of both college preparation and in creating a sense of belonging and connection for students once they arrive on campus. Initiatives aimed at helping FGLI students to develop a sense of belonging on
156 internal communities as well as skills and to ols to interface with the larger university be better able to structure intervention to assure that a sense of belonging is attainable for all university students. Ul timately, a paradigm shift to a focus on the multitude of the variables that impact belonging may prove useful to researchers as well as practitioners (Welch). This holistic view will assist researchers, practitioners, and policymakers as they seek to assi st underrepresented populations of students. (Walpole). This project has shown that explicit organizational initiatives, such as the Partnership Program, multifaceted approach, helpe d to facilitate college transition and persistence for these students. Practitioner Support for the Development of Peer Networks among Students This research project has shown that for the FGLI participants, support from peers has significantly contribut ed to their sense of belonging on campus. According to Hurtado and Carter (1997), transition experiences that encourage the formation of peer groups and adjustment to college can be facilitated by institutional intervention. Because peers are very influe persistence, institutions must harness and shape this influence to the extent possible so it is educationally purposeful and helps to reinforce academic attainment (Kuh et al, 2005, 2008). Exposur e to certain resources that supported the transition to and persistence in college for the students in this study appeared to make a difference in whether they were able to socially integrate with other members of the college community. Practitioners can p rovide resources for students to fully participate in the social aspect of college. Practitioners that structure peer network support opportunities
157 and their desire to be B all, 2007, p. 145). Limitations and Directions for Future Research Faculty and staff must use effective e ducational practices throughout the and create a culture that fosters student success (Kuh et al., 2008). How and why many of these practices work in different institution al settings with different types of students are discussed by many researchers cited in this study (Kuh, et al., 2006, 20 08; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Walpole, 2007; Watt, 2009). Whatever the reasons, research has consistently found that FGLI students are less likely to aspire to, apply to, be prepared for, or enroll in postsecondary education than higher SES continuing generation students. Winkle Wagner (2009) asserts the need for more research, particularly qualitative work that explores how students from underrepresented groups, make ways that FGLI students and those from other underrepresented groups form r community and family Wagner, pg. 25). Bedsworth et al. (2006), found although parental involvement was important, having a peer group that was planning on attending college was more important than par ental encouragement. The findings of this study similarly indicate that while parent support for college going was significant for participants prior to enrolling and attending
158 college, peer interactions have important influence on college going and persis tence, in terms of both personal and intellectual growth. Determining the indirect ways in which peer networks shape the college transition and persistence experiences of FGLI nal experiences is an area for future research. Ostrove and Long (2007) suggest that there are many ways in which people derive a sense of belonging and multiple dimensions along which belonging can be structured. The authors describe that feeling that on e does not belong may affect important for future research to examine the processes by which a sense of belonging affects the college experience for FGLI students. While the research findings and suggestions of this study offer new ideas for other campuses and universities to explore and implement, this study emerged out of a specific time and context that must be acknowledged. The Southeast University student participants were from particular FGLI circumstances and in an institutional context where specific college success support features were offered, therefore generaliz ing these findings may not be applicable to other settings. Within the study, only a small sample of FGLI students were interviewed on their transition and persistence experiences and their photographs portrayed. These interviews and photographs proved ex tremely instructive, but different participants and observational times might have garnered different results. Also, studying the phenomenon of interaction and belonging was a complex undertaking that one study could likely not fully capture.
159 As a practit ioner, researcher familiarity with some of the participants was also a study limitation addressed in Chapter Three. These limitations were addressed throughout the research project in numerous ways. By using multiple interviews and photographs provided b y participants in the analysis process, and by making use of member checking, limitations were addressed within data collection, analysis, and the final write up of the study. Conclusions structural impediments and often lack the resources to become prepared for college and to make informed decisions about college going, yet there are many FGLI students who do manage to surmount the barriers and make decisions that result in persistence an d minimize the obstacles and advocate for and assist students with their decisions all at higher education must institutionalize student success, calling for a shift within the culture of higher education institutions. Moreover, these authors assert that programs designed specifically for students of individual racial groups, low income bac kgrounds, and first generation college students are necessary. According to Goodman (2011) backgrounds need in order to navigate the campus environment and make the greatest poss mentors, student services professionals, faculty, and others will be better positioned to
160 suc cessfully co create strategies for their college attendance and success (Coffman, 2011). Research has consistently found that FGLI students are less likely to aspire to, apply to, be prepared for, or enroll in postsecondary education than higher SES, conti nuing generation students, and are less likely to persist to graduation. However, previous research and this study have shown that there are remedies for this, such as programs beginning in high school and continuing through the college years, and that FG LI students can and do succeed in transitioning to college and persisting to graduation. The participants all displayed a sense of achievement and accomplishment for not only being enrolled in college, but also for persisting. They understood that most st udents from similar backgrounds and circumstances often did not fare as well when it came to college transition and persistence. At the time of the study, all participants had made it past their second year of college and according to research (Braxton, 20 00; Ishitani, 2005) conducted on first generation students, they were beating the odds, publication, three participants had graduated). Institutional, state, and federal po licies are all driven to some extent by research related to the issues of interest to policymakers. In the area of college transition and persistence and in particular those studies examining issues of access and equity in this process, additional research is needed to guide future policy decisions. A number of studies cited above provided suggestions for the direction of future research, many of which focus on generating a better understanding of the college transition and persistence experiences of FGLI s tudents (Bergerson, 2009). This study attempts to
161 draw attention to FGLI students, showing their special needs and their potential, and integrates literature on how social class, socioeconomic status, parental income, and generation status affect edu cational achievement and attainment on the action will help to support FGLI students transition to and persistence in college and thus help inspire future generations into postsecondary attainment.
162 APPENDIX DEDOOSE CODE APPLICATION EXAMPLE
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177 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ms. Mary Anne Primack earne d her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Florida in April, 2013. Her dissertation research focused on college access and success for first generation students from economically challenged backgrounds. As part of her degree pr ogram, she had the opportunity to train with educational researchers and leaders focused on understanding the challenges many students face while navigating their educational journey. For example, as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Bernard Oliver, pr ofessor of Education Administration at the University of Florida and Dr. Luis Ponjuan, associate prof essor at Texas A&M University, she worked on research focused on college access and success for under served students. Additionally, during her time as a graduate student, she worked for a college access and success program targeting first generation students from high poverty high schools throughout Florida. Prior to her graduate training, she taught in two secondary school settings designed to increase th e opportunities of economically and educationally under served students. These educationa l training opportunities gave her extensive experience to critically understand and evaluate the complex social challenges that shape how institutions, families, and s tudents work together. Her commitment to social justice issues in education is clearly reflected in her academic pursuits, teaching experience, and professional work history. In particular, her educational career highlights a commitment to education with a focus on under served students and their communities.