Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Sherwood Thompson

Second Advisor

Charles S. Hausman

Third Advisor

Norman W. Powell


For more than forty-nine years (since 1968) the federally-funded TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) programs have served disadvantaged students across the United States of America by providing wrap-around services to further the progress of their enrollment in postsecondary educational opportunities. The SSS program aims to assist students with disabilities, and who identify as low-income and first-generation (LIFG) college students, towards the successful completion of certification in a technical program and an undergraduate level degree from either a two or four-year college or university.

This study evaluated the needs and aspirations of [ten] first-generation college students at the point-of-entry of enrollment into the TRIO SSS program as participants of the summer bridge program in 2017 at a community college in rural Kentucky. The summer bridge program provides student participants of the TRIO SSS program a jumpstart on their college experience and serves as an additional boost to students who enrolled in the program during the 2017 spring semester. The primary investigator (PI) employed a grounded theory research methodology to analyze the needs and aspirations of the ten TRIO SSS students at the point-of-entry into the SSS program and how the perspective of the student directly aligns with the objectives of the community college's SSS program grant.

There are four major themes which emerged from the analysis of the individual interview sessions and personal statements taken from the student's SSS application at the point-of-entry into the program. The first theme is the focus on self and the specific goals of wanting to accomplish postsecondary enrollment (PSE) and postsecondary degree attainment (PSA). The second theme is the focus on family, with one-fourth of the students articulating the desire to be a role model for present and future generations. The third theme is the enthusiasm of the student and the pride that comes from being a first-generation college student. The final theme is the perspective of the student about their future which extends beyond postsecondary enrollment and postsecondary degree attainment. The implications of the themes and the resulting theory for TRIO SSS program management and federal policy are presented for the benefit of potential modification of program services in the next fifty years. Suggestions for further research are also provided.

Available for download on Tuesday, December 10, 2019