Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Higher Education Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Jaclyn Rivard

Second Advisor

Dr. Brian Hamluk

Third Advisor

Dr. Danielle Lemmerman


First-generation college students encounter many hardships when trying to persist throughout their educational journey. They are expected to be successful in navigating their careers, family life, and school – all without anyone else’s experience to reference. When a student is the first in their family to go to college, they are expected to succeed with a lack of understanding the process. This qualitative study explores what assets first-generation students have and apply in their college experience that contribute to their persistence. This research is guided by Dr. Tara Yosso’s Cultural Wealth Model which examines many forms of cultural capital that students adapt from a standpoint. First-generation students must be looked at as holistic individuals. Data was collected through structured interviews with eleven participants in the upper Midwest in the United States. The interview protocol for this study focused on four topics: obstacles, assets, resources and being first-generation. Three themes emerged from these data: determination, support systems, and overcoming challenges. Within support systems, two subthemes emerged and those were college support and networks. Within the theme of overcoming challenges, the subtheme of access emerged. The major findings from this research study are: parents, limited college knowledge, faculty and staff, financial literacy, and difficulty accessing support networks and resources.