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Navigation of first-generaton, low-income, first-year college students: A case study from one college access program

Amber S Williams, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Improving educational opportunities for first-generation, low-income students is critical to the future of youth in the United States. First-generation, low-income students are less likely than their more affluent peers to pursue and complete college degrees (Harvey & Anderson, 2005). In 2012, 52% of students from low-income families enrolled in postsecondary institutions as compared to 82% of students from high-income backgrounds (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). The data is clear: first-generation, low-income students are not completing college degrees despite the country's best efforts to improve the educational system. There are numerous benefits of having a college education including higher salaries, greater civic engagement, better health, and more satisfaction in life (Le, Mariano, & Faxon-Mills, 2013). College access programs have the ability to increase the rate of those attending college by providing first-generation, low-income students with academic and social services. Despite the large numbers of college access programs, there are gaps in the college access literature, particularly concerning program design and how students perceive their experiences in these programs (Le et al., 2013). This dissertation focuses on full-time, first-generation, low-income college students and how they negotiated their first years of college at a Midwestern, predominantly White institution, in one college access program. This qualitative study provides a unique viewpoint from both the perspectives of these successful first-generation, low-income students and from their perceptions of the Next Generation program, and further enhances the research on college access programs and college retention. College preparedness, strong social networks, and isolation were three themes that emerged from this study. Key findings include the need for college access programs to improve support for students in building powerful social networks and in creating strategies to overcome the psychological effects of being first-generation, low-income students. This research will be helpful to similar college access programs, as well as secondary and postsecondary institution administrators. It better informs federal and state education policy and furthers the conversation about college access programs and college retention.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Williams, Amber S, "Navigation of first-generaton, low-income, first-year college students: A case study from one college access program" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3689218.