I'ma just keep moving : a case study of Black first-generation college student persistence
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Although access and retention are regularly explored in higher education, there continues to be a lack of emphasis on the psychological variables and strategies that influence the persistence of students, particularly those who are labeled as “at-risk” for college dropout. The tendency to view students as “at-risk” is deficit-focused (Riele, 2006) as it assumes insufficiency without acknowledging the context and strengths of the individual. The current study challenged deficit-focused narratives and examined the persistence of Black first-generation students and the factors to which they attribute their degree completion. Utilizing a case study qualitative research approach and critical race lens, the study consisted of two individual interviews with each of five Black first-generation women participants. Additionally, data collection included a document analysis to describe the campus climate and the unique political context of the university. The findings suggested that participants utilized multi-faceted ways of coping with academic, financial, social, emotional, and campus climate challenges such as racial division and lack of inclusion. Participants endorsed coping strategies that included religious/spiritual beliefs and practices, community support, and cognitive behavioral strategies. Further, participants discussed that their ability to persist and graduate was influenced by their perceived responsibility to their families and Black community to seize the educational opportunity not afforded to everyone. The findings implicate the need to identify and support Black first-generation college students prior to or early on in their college degrees in order to increase their likelihood of degree completion. Particularly, Black first-generation students would likely benefit from affirming academic and emotional coaching as they navigate college culture and expectations.
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