School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Sharon Michael-Chadwell


debt, self-determination, student loans, persistence, higher education


Higher Education


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the perceptions of low-income undergraduate students concerning the effects of financial stressors and the persistence to academically succeed at Anytown University. Anytown University is a large institution of higher education with over 100,000 total student enrolments, 46,438 undergraduate students and 154 programs of study. The theory supporting this study is Deci and Ryan’s theory of self-determination which is concerned with the motivation behind one’s choices and their goal to fill a psychological need. As applied to this study, the psychological need is the motivation to pursue the attainment of a college credential and the requisite persistence to do so. The qualitative approach used to examine a specific case and compare themes among each participant for this dissertation is the collective case study. Yin's five-phase analysis plan was used for participant survey, interview, and focus group response analysis. The results of this analysis demonstrate that student loan debt does not play a negative role in academic success or persistence through the attainment of a college credential.