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Low income, first generation community college students: Reflections on their success and their motivations

Munoz, Ramona Marie
Scope and Method of Study: The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the factors that supported low-income first-generation (LIFG) transfer graduates of four-year institutions in their persistence at the community college level. Specifically, this study focused on students who started at a community college in a Mid-Western State and graduated with their bachelor's degree from a Mid-Western State college within six years. Purposeful sampling was used to collect participants for this study. Nine participants were interviewed individually, and an additional two participants (for a total of 11 participants in the study), along with two returning participants partook in a focus group. Data sources included the transcribed interviews, focus groups, observations, and artifacts brought by participants to the focus group. Self-Determination Theory was the a priori theoretical lens that guided the development of this study's design, data collection, and analysis process.
Findings and Conclusions: An analysis of the interviews, focus groups, field notes and artifacts resulted in identifying three themes for this qualitative study. The themes included (1) Walking Two Roads, (2) Services Utilized to Overcome Barriers and (3) Giving Back and Coming Full Circle. A Native American lens was used when defining themes. Additionally, a comparison between the literature review and the research findings indicated that the most often touted mechanisms of retention are not required by most colleges and therefore, are not often used by LIFG community college students. Furthermore, the one resource all the participants cited as being helpful in their retention was the use of faculty, and yet, this was not a mechanism that was overly cited in the literature review.