Enrollment Continuation Needs of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students in Community Colleges

Enrollment Continuation Needs of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students in Community Colleges

Author: 
Sherell D. Wilson
Program of study: 
Ph.D./HEA
Abstract: 
The purpose of this exploratory, qualitative study was to document and describe the lived experiences of high-achieving, low-income (HALI) freshman community college students as they related to their needs and decisions about continuing their enrollment in higher education. Participants’ experiences were explored using 30 open-ended interview questions aligned with this study’s three research questions. The research questions were centered around (a) exploring HALI freshman community college students’ beliefs about their needs (individual and contextual) for continuing their enrollment in higher education, (b) exploring these students’ decisions about continuing their higher education experiences and how they may be influenced by their individual and contextual needs, and (c) exploring these students’ views of the projected fulfillment or lack of fulfillment of their needs and how they affect their continued enrollment decisions. Employing a phenomenological research design, the researcher collected and analyzed data from 20 participant interviews. Data analysis included searching for themes and patterns within the data set. The data analysis yielded a number of themes that reflected three broad areas of need. A predominant need was that HALI freshman community college students believed they needed psychosocial development. Students made decisions to address this need in different ways, but they also considered leaving or giving up their college experiences when they projected about the lack of fulfillment of these needs. A recommendation for further research included a call for studies to examine the relationships that exist among the HALI students’ need, decision, and projected concern variables identified in this study.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my mom, Theresa. I am who I am because of you. I am not afraid to work hard to achieve my goals. Thank you for all of your sacrifices and your uncompromising love. Words could never fully express how grateful I am, and how much I love you. I also dedicate this dissertation to my grandparents, Samuel and Wilhelmina. You always believed in me. Grandpa, you have passed on. Grandma, due to dementia, your memory fails you. However, I hope that you know that I continue to follow my dreams because of you . . . and I love you. I dedicate this dissertation to my husband, Joe. I could not have endured this journey without your unfaltering love, support, and encouragement. Thank you for all the times that I needed concentrated time to do work, and you said, “I will prepare dinner;” or “I will take the kids out for a fun day.” Thank you for all the times that I said, “I give up,” and you said, “Try just one more time.” You are the best husband a girl could have; you are my friend, my love, my rock, my forever. With you by my side, I can do anything. It is a good thing to be able to grow continuously as individuals and as a couple. I am grateful for you. I love you with all my heart. I dedicate this dissertation to my daughters, Treasure and Jaida. Treasure you were six years old when I began my doctoral studies, and Jaida you were only two. Your existence drives me to be the best person, woman, mother, and educator I can be. Thank you for traveling this journey with me. Your hugs, kisses, and tender words mean more than you will ever know. You are blossoming as smart, confident, and beautiful young ladies, and that gives me joy. Always follow your dreams. I love you.
Acknowledgements: 
I would like to acknowledge and send my most sincere appreciation to my dissertation chair, Dr. Bill Furtwengler. You answered my call in July 2011 to assist “as I attempt to climb this dissertation mountain.” The mountain was steep, but you stayed by my side for three years! Thank you for staying by my side and for guiding me through this process. I feel fortunate to have someone of your expertise in my corner. Your leadership (and patience) was instrumental and inspiring. I would like to acknowledge my dissertation committee members, Dr. Barbara Goldstein and Dr. Susan Kater. Your expertise with community college students as well as doctoral level processes was vital to my study. You both provided me with invaluable feedback. Thank you for your pivotal role in the process. I appreciate your shared interest and enthusiasm about this study’s purpose. Thank you for your support and guidance. I would like to thank the administration and staff at the Hillsborough Education Foundation and Take Stock in Children program, especially Marilyn Fashano, Rebecca Davis, and Julia Carter. Likewise, I appreciate your shared interest and enthusiasm about this study’s purpose and results. Thank you for permitting me to use your premises and helping me to recruit subjects for participation in this study. I would also like to thank the student participants who shared their experiences. Thank you for your willing contribution and support of my efforts with this doctoral study. Talking with you reassured me of both my passion and my purpose. Your experiences inspire me to improve opportunities for high-achieving, low-income students to succeed. Thank you!