Theses Doctoral

Beyond College Enrollment: Exploring the Relationship Between Historically Underrepresented Students’ Prior Participation in College Access Programs and Undergraduate Success

Williams, Leslie Allen

College access programs (CAPs) have proliferated throughout the United States to address disparities in college enrollment between White, higher-income students, and racial/ethnic minority and lower-income students. While CAPs have helped to reduce such disparities, considerable challenges remain. U.S. higher education leaders are facing renewed urgency to address this issue because racial/ethnic minority and lower-income groups are now the fastest growing segments of the population, and because educational attainment – acquisition of a college degree – is increasingly important to national economic growth and individual well-being. However, to date, only a few researchers have examined CAPs’ influence on participants beyond college enrollment, so there is a knowledge gap regarding the kinds of systems and supports needed to help members of these populations achieve a college degree. This study examines the relationship between CAP participation and the undergraduate experiences and outcomes of CAP alumni who enrolled in college.
The primary data for this study consisted of individual interviews with 24 alumni from five CAPs in the New York City metropolitan area who subsequently attended college. The CAPs varied by primary funding source. Four to six participants per site were college juniors or seniors, recent college graduates, or individuals who enrolled in college but withdrew before graduating and never returned.
The data highlighted the following key themes and implications: (1) CAPs in this study were largely successful in helping alumni enroll in colleges and universities known to be selective; (2) While the CAPs exerted helpful influences, alumni nonetheless faced serious challenges through the college years, such as meeting academic demands and navigating barriers of bigotry and intolerance that are deeply embedded on many campuses; and (3) CAPs in this study influenced alumni’s post-college aspirations, directions, and trajectories regarding career choices, and family and community uplift. Drawing on these findings, this study proposed a model of the psychosocial, academic, and sociocultural resources that appear to contribute to the undergraduate experiences, outcomes, and post-college trajectories of CAP alumni. The study concludes with implications for practice, policy and further research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Neumann, Anna
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 6, 2019