School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


David Vacchi


First-generation, Support Programs, College, Hispanic, Underserved Populations, Higher Education




The purpose of this case study was to understand the Hispanic first-generation student perspectives on provided support programs at universities across the United States. Only 54% of Hispanic students graduate from public universities within six years, and the rates are drastically lower at private for-profit schools. Additionally, for those Hispanic students who do graduate from college, the chances of continuing to graduate school are slim, with only ten percent of Hispanic students enrolling in graduate school, compared to 64% of white students. With statistics such as these, universities need to create useful and valuable support systems for Hispanic students that will lead to higher graduation rates and the encouragement to further their education. The central question of the study was: How valuable do Hispanic first-generation students see university-provided support programs to be? The self-determination theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2017) guided the study. The study used a qualitative design, specifically, a single case study design, with multiple units of analysis. Journal prompts targeting open-ended questions, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups obtained the data. To analyze the data, manual coding and explanation building were utilized. The findings of the study revealed that Hispanic first-generation students are receiving most, if not all, of their supports from school organizations. The findings also revealed that a school’s orientation is a crucial support that is currently failing. Recommendations for future research include taking a closer look into the experience of students from underserved populations who attend a college that incorporates a valuable orientation process.

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