Term of Award

Spring 2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Cherry C. Brewton

Committee Member 1

Meta Harris

Committee Member 2

Linda M. Arthur

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine resiliency factors in at-risk college students to provide insight and strategies for college administrators who have a genuine desire to attract and retain these students. The researcher focused on college students who were minority, low-income and first generation. This study included three seniors who attended three different universities, and were graduating at the end of the semester. The researcher explored social and academic factors, and the findings overwhelming concluded that students who are at-risk have a harder time obtaining a college degree than non-at-risk students. At-risk students face challenges such as lack of emotional and financial support from their family members, and they experience tremendous feelings of isolation, which they deem as an indication that they belong in college. The students in this research explain their personal burdens and the tools they used to jump the hurdles to success. In-depth interviewing encouraged participants to speak openly about their challenges and they provide valuable life lessons for making it through college. The researcher found out how these students formed social networks, which they relied on for emotional support. Among the resources these students could have utilized to assist in their achievements, they found power, strength and courage through the social networks they formed. Each student collectively agreed that they desired more mentoring from faculty and staff, but didn't feel this resource was an option as they were just one in the midst of many who needed the same attention. In the end, each student agreed that their social network was the single most important factor that kept them on the path to earning their college degree. The researcher also found that these at-risk students' challenges throughout college were very similar both socially and academically. This study found that the students shared similar feelings including: lack of support, either from family or faculty members; lack of administrative guidance or mentoring; a strong sense of not belonging and financial burdens. Most importantly, the research provides valuable feedback for college administrators about what works and what doesn't work for at-risk students.

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