Date of Award

12-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Janice Girardi

Second Supervisor

Carla Smith

Abstract

This study examined the reasons behind first-generation Latino students’ academic success in attaining associate degrees in community colleges in the United States, focusing specifically on academic resilience factors among this cohort. The research comes in response to the awareness that, despite the U.S.’s rapidly growing Latino population, Latinos have the lowest higher education attainment level compared to all other ethnic groups. While the structural factors behind this have been examined, there is relatively little research on the enabling factors driving Latinos, specifically those who are first-generation students, who do successfully complete higher education degrees in community colleges, their main entry into postsecondary education. In order to gain insight into the factors associated with academic resilience from the perspective of first-generation Latino students who have completed an associate degree at a community college, a phenomenological approach was employed to describe the lived experiences of these students. A purposeful sample of 10 graduates at a community college in the northeast United States was used. Data was attained by qualitative inquiry through in-depth interviews, and subsequently analyzed to help the researcher develop structural themes. The themes that emerged from the study found that perseverance, familial support, spirituality and positive interaction from others may impact the ability of first-generation Latino students to continue to persist towards degree completion. Recommendations were described to assist institutions of higher education to recognize that individual, familial, and environmental protective factors can have a significant positive impact on the academic success of first-generation Latino students in community colleges.

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