Pathfinders; identifying the factors influencing first-generation college student's persistence at Texas Woman's University
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This study focused on successful first-general college students enrolled at Texas Woman's University (TWU). The purpose of this study was to identify the factors, as perceived by first-generation university students, influencing their persistence and progress at Texas Woman's University. Additionally, data were collected among faculty and staff as a purposive discussion to elicit their interpretation of the common topic areas perceived to influence first-generation student persistence and progress at Texas Woman's University. A qualitative method was used for this study. This study was restricted to self identified first-generation university students, who began as first-year students at Texas Woman's University and having successfully completed 45 or more credit hours. All participants were registered part-time or full-time students. The three focus groups consisted of employees at Texas Woman's University, who worked full-time and at least one-year in an instructional or staff capacity. Using a phenomenological approach to gather data, a total of 19 students and 13 TWU employees were interviewed. Based on the information extracted from the two research questions, seven emergent themes were identified: parental and familial encouragement, institutional support systems, self-expectations and external support, financial resources, institutional fit, motivation to complete degree, and cultural identify. Implications are offered for postsecondary schools, college administrators, educators, and policymakers to cultivate persistence among first-generation students. This study also support the need for additional research conducted at community colleges. In addition, further investigation should be undertaken comparing results regarding factors that influence persistence of first-generation versus non first-generation students.