Dissertation

Timely degree completion: the successes and setbacks of first-generation and low income transfer students

The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine the successes and setbacks of first-generation and low income transfer students who completed their bachelor’s degree within two years upon transferring to the university. This study involved eight logistic regression models using 4,211 student records and 384 surveys as well as identified salient themes and sub-themes using qualitative methodology and analysis of the same 384 surveys and sixteen individual interviews. The three research questions were: 1. What factors are associated with completion of a bachelor’s degree within two years of transferring to a 4-year university, for first-generation college students from low income backgrounds? 2. What unique setbacks and successes did first-generation and low income transfer students who graduated within two years experience in comparison to other transfer students? 3. What recommendations do transfer students have to increase graduation rates and reduce time to degree? The researcher used three conceptual frameworks that include social capital, resilience, and academic resilience as the lenses to explore the successes and setbacks of first-generation and low income transfer students who graduated within two years upon transferring. The quantitative results of this study concluded that the following factors were statistically significant and were associated with two-year degree completion for first-generation and low income transfer students: (a) pre-transfer units (p<.05), the units that transfer students entered NCU with, (b) term 1 GPA (p<.05), the first term GPA, (c) term 1 enrolled units (p<.01), the amount of units enrolled in first term, (d) enrollment in winter courses (p<.05), taking NCU courses over winter break, (e) internships (p<.05), formal opportunities for professional development, and (f) senior writing course (p<.05), a writing course usually taken during final year. The qualitative results regarding unique successes of first-generation and low income transfer students graduating within two years were: (a) believing the degree will lead to upward mobility/better career, (b) engaging in exercise/activities that promote health/wellness, (c) concern for social justice, and (d) the helpfulness of financial aid. The unique setbacks of first-generation and low income transfer student graduating in two years were: (a) balancing family commitments and (b) challenges adjusting to university academics. The recommendations that transfer students had to increase transfer student graduation rates and reduce time to degree were: (a) stressing the importance of planning and being organized among students, (b) developing students’ social capital by facilitating the inspiration/motivation/support they receive from others, (c) meeting the need to provide transfer students with support during their first-semester, and (d) reassessment of university logistics especially class availability. The researcher’s overall recommendations for action were: (a) to provide better communication with students prior to transferring, (b) develop a program, office, or service that aims at facilitating a positive and successful first-semester transfer student experience, (c) conduct a thorough assessment of university logistics and resources in relation to student enrollment and demand, and (d) facilitate a culture of inclusion and belonging across campus and beyond.

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