School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Russell Yocum


First-generation, Community College, Low-income, Student Success, Interactionalist Theory, Bandwidth Recovery, Sociocultural Theory, Student Involvement Theory


Education | Higher Education


In the United States, 36% of community college enrollments are comprised of first-generation students (FGCS); however, little is known about FGCS as a cohort. Various initiatives have been formulated to encourage success among students with constraints related to social capital, bandwidth recovery, and the education system. The purpose of this phenomenological study aimed to understand the experiences of FGCS in community colleges in the Northeast region of the United States. FGCS are defined as students whose parents did not graduate from college with at least a bachelor’s degree. This study addressed student experiences—including social interactions—that impacted academic achievement positively or negatively. Tinto’s interactionalist theory of college student departure guided this study because student retention and success in college are affected by formal and informal interactions. Data were collected from 15 participants using one-on-one interviews, a writing prompt, and a focus group discussion. Data analysis was conducted using Moustakas’ guidelines for organizing and analyzing transcendental phenomenology. The four main themes identified were a) shared experiences, b) defining success, c) protective factors, and d) social factors.