Persistence of first-generation, part-time, Hispanic students
Lerma, Selsa Lucero
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ABSTRACT The purpose of this qualitative collective case study, conducted through a constructivist lens, was to explore the perceptions and experiences of Hispanic, first-generation, part-time, community college students of the supports they utilized to successfully persist through their first year of college. Additional interests in this study were what this student population perceives were the roles of their family and themselves in their college success, and what they identified as their internal motivators for their college success. For the purposes of this study, college success is defined as having completed their first year of college. The study institutions were two rural-serving, medium-sized community colleges (identified as College A and College B for this study) located in West Texas. The participants were nine purposefully-selected Hispanic, first-generation, part-time community college students from one of the two study institutions (five from College A, and four from College B). Data collection for this study occurred through the lens of the research, semi-structured interviews, field notes, and a researcher’s journal. Data analyses were conducted using the constant comparison method of analysis, in which the researcher looked for similarities and dissimilarities, and open and axial coding. The analysis of the data was used by the researcher to answer the research questions of the study. Trustworthiness of this study was ensured by member checking, and rich, thick descriptions of the conduction of the study and the participants’ narratives. The results of this study can be used to advance the practices within community colleges that promote the persistence of Hispanic, first-generation, part-time students. The minority population is likely to become the majority population by 2042. However, the number of educated Hispanics remains low. The overall findings of this study suggest that there are multiple ways to ensure the college success of Hispanic, first-generation, part-time community college students. The first research question of this study explored the support systems the participants of this study had that positively affected their persistence through their first year of college. The themes that emerged to answer this question were students must know what to do and where to go for assistance, students need encouragement to succeed, and that students must work to pay for college. The participants in this study were aware of their educational goals, they knew which degree they wanted to obtain, and most of them had a degree plan. They also reported receiving the encouragement to succeed from various sources. They claimed their mothers encouraged them to enroll and persist through their first year of college. Regarding financial aid, many of the students worked to be able to pay for their college tuition. The second research question sought to understand the roles of parent/guardian and the student him or herself in their persistence through their first year of college. The two themes that emerged to answer this research question were mothers play important roles in student persistence, and students must be self-determined to succeed. The participants perceived that their mother was an essential part of them enrolling and persisting in college. They also perceived that self-determination to succeed made them continue staying enrolled in college through their first year. All of the participants stated that their determination to succeed helped them to enroll and persist in college. They all wanted something better for their lives. The majority of the participants knew they wanted to attend college because it was expected of them from a young age or they felt pressured to continue their education by their mothers or both parents. The final research question explored what were the internal expectations of the participants for their persistence in their first year of college. The participants attributed their success (defined in this study as persisting through the first year of college) to knowing how to challenge themselves to be successful. They also mentioned that they were expected to succeed. They mentioned wanting to be examples for their own children. Participants perceived a desire for a college degree because they had set that expectation for themselves. They also had professors or family members who were strong supporters of their success for completion of a degree. All the participants knew where they wanted to be, once they finished their college education.