Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Ronald Williamson

Committee Member

Russell Olwell

Committee Member

Theresa Saunders

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy


A formal college education allows graduates to greatly increase their earning potential. Research has shown that first generation students make up 50% of the college population. This research investigated home and school factors that led to the decision of the selected first-generation college students in one rural northern-lower Michigan intermediate school district (ISD) to attend a two-year community college or a four-year bachelor’s degree-granting institution. A qualitative case study research design was employed to understand the social phenomena of school and family influence upon first-generation college students and to explore students’ financial concerns about college attendance and their recognition of the benefits of a college education. Data were collected in informal interviews, discussions, and a focus group with five first-generation college freshmen or sophomores and the students’ high school counselors, parents, and teachers who influenced the students’ decision to attend college. Student voice provided a more detailed understanding of how the participants interpreted their experiences and offered insights into the schooling in educational institutions from the perspective of students as expert witnesses. Participants confirmed the importance of family members and the role of counselors, and teachers in their decisions to attend and succeed in college. The high school peer group was not identified as contributors to the decision of the first-generation college students. Implications of the findings of this study suggest that K-12 educational agencies interested in college attendance by first-generation college students must work with parents as well as students and focus on academic readiness as well as college preparation activities that have been shown to be important for the successful transition from high school to college.

Included in

Counseling Commons