College-bound or College-abandoned: Student Stories from the Place Between
Stiles, Ann 1959-
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This study investigates barriers limiting successful access to higher education for high school graduates from low-income communities who have demonstrated aspirations for college and achieved a level of college-readiness. The students included in this study are the 1,345 students from high school graduating classes of 2009 and 2010 who successfully completed college access program requirements in order to qualify for the scholarship offer of a local non-profit organization, Project GRAD Houston. The participants include a balance of the following criteria, in line with program participation: 70 percent Hispanic and 30 percent African American; at least 90 percent from households considered low-income. Most students are among the first generation in their families to attend college. Project GRAD Houston, a collaborative initiative in the Houston Independent School District, has a mission of improving high school and college graduation rates for students historically under-represented in higher education. This study illuminates the differences in experiences and perspectives associated with those students who successfully enroll in college following high school graduation compared to those who do not. Using a mixed methods design, which included an analysis of archival data and narrative analysis of field texts in the form of student and family narratives, this doctoral thesis research contributes to the existing knowledge concerning college access and college success of underserved populations historically underrepresented in higher education. Findings from the study include the positive correlations between specific program experiences and college enrollment. The journey of access to college is presented through stories of students and parents, an essential element in understanding and evaluating both practice and policy, as they are lived, told, re-lived, and re-told, in the field. Narrative texts were explored, yielding common strands, which have been organized around the three-dimensional framework of narrative inquiry: relational, place, and time. Examination of the common strands emerging from the collected stories has provided deeper insight to inform policy and practice.