Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


The pathway to college for most low-income first-generation students can seem impracticable and impossible to achieve. This diverse population has caused much apprehension among educational administrators and practitioners about how to serve these students effectively. As an educational practitioner working with this population I am especially interested in uncovering the “state of affairs” regarding first-generation college students in general, and low income first generation students in particular, and how I might be a catalyst of positive and effective change as I serve them. My synthesis reviews published literature that reveals the “state of affairs” regarding first generation students. I address the questions of: How are first generation and low income students defined in the literature? What kinds of complexities arise in this definition? In what kinds of postsecondary institutions do they typically enroll? What are the individual characteristics of and obstacles faced by these students? In addition, my synthesis explores two contrasting models designed to promote student success in achieving their BA: (a) TRIO Student Support Services, a longstanding federal program that has made great efforts to support low income first-generation students through a variety of support services including creating learning communities within the postsecondary culture as well as providing developmental education and workshops, and (b) the Achieve the Dream initiative, a bold new national effort within community colleges, that has been established to promote a culture of evidence and to refine efforts of obtaining measurable outcomes of student success. I also consider the research on the effectiveness of these programs and their proposed practices to date in enhancing the success of low-income first generation college students. The challenge of this quest will be longstanding, and viewing its unique attributes will allow for many additional reflective interventions. As a student of Critical and Creative Thinking I have drawn on the many tools I learned. The process of defining the best practices will be an ongoing process, which is reflective of what I learned in my problem-based learning course. There is empowerment in the statement, “every problem has a solution.” Geared with that knowledge, it is up to the creativity of the individual facing the problem to establish what route of possible resolutions is best suited for him or her. This is the junction at which I aim to be an agency of change, giving students the opportunity to “realize their dreams.” by considering how they are currently thinking about how they might use the possible tools that they might have been given to attain their degree.


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