Educational Administration, Department of


First Advisor

Stephanie Bondi

Date of this Version

Spring 4-20-2020


Saunders, K.L. (2020). First-generation college student experience in the financial aid process (Master's thesis). University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Stephanie Bondi. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2020

Copyright 2020 Kristy L. Saunders


How do first-generation college students experience the financial aid process? In what ways does a first-generation status affect the financial aid process for college students? Prior literature shows that first-generation college students are more likely to navigate the financial aid process without the help of parents and are less likely to complete the financial aid process in its entirety. However, there is a gap in prior literature examining the first-generation college student experience within the financial aid process overall. The current study utilizes a hermeneutical phenomenological approach to examine first-generation college student experiences in the financial aid process at a four-year university through the scope of the Social Class Worldview Model (SCWM). In depth interview data of six first-generation college student participants was analyzed to identify five emerging themes that affect the financial aid process: 1) Navigating the financial aid process alone, 2) Lack of knowledge of resources, 3) The importance of social capital 4) Effects of not enough aid, 5) Gratitude. Findings are discussed in relation to implications for future research and recommendations for practitioners.

Advisor: Stephanie Bondi