Department of Educational Administration


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Doyle, M. A. (2013). Increasing access to post-secondary education: A mixed methods study of the Charleston Clemente program, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: October, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Mariane Asad Doyle


There is an economic gap that favors adults who have higher levels of educational attainment (United States Department of Labor, 2010). With more than 9.3 million Americans over the age of 25 facing unemployment as of June 2012 and over 79% or 7.4 million of those unemployed Americans having attained less than a Bachelor’s degree (U.S. Department of Labor, 2012), the current need for college access measures and programs that address the adult population is an imperative one.

The Charleston Clemente Program provides a tuition-free course in the Humanities to economically-disadvantaged adult students for a total of two-semesters. Along with free books, bus passes, and food, the program culminates in six units of college credit and a unique learning experience. This study sought to describe the Charleston Clemente Program as a potential model for supporting college access for the economically-distressed adult student as well as to discover the unique characteristics of this program that opens educational opportunities to underrepresented populations at institutions of higher education.

This mixed methods study required data from interviews of faculty and students, and from student surveys. The data were collected separately and simultaneously using a parallel convergent design, and were mixed during the interpretation. Five core themes emerged through this process:

  1. Humanity and the humanities, or “giving back”
  2. Accomplishment, persistence, and perseverance
  3. Redemption and transformation
  4. Finances and access
  5. The power of one.

Implications regarding the efficacy of this program and its potential for duplication at other institutions are discussed. A pragmatist approach is used in this mixed methods study as both qualitative and quantitative data are collected and analyzed in order to best address the research problem.

Adviser: Marilyn Grady