Skip to main content
Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Graduate Defense: Megan Simila

September 29, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Dissertation Defense

Dissertation Information

Title: Trio Upward Bound: A Mixed Methods Investigation Of Factors That Impact Postsecondary Enrollment And Degree Completion Of First-Generation, Low-Income, And Academically At-Risk Students

Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration

Advisor: Dr. Chris Birdsall, School of Public Service

Committee Members: Dr. Sanghee Park, School of Public Service; Dr. Brian Wampler, School of Public Service


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the factors that influence the college choice process for first-generation, low-income, and academically at-risk students in a TRIO Upward Bound program. The literature review theoretically explores the multi-level factors with Perna’s college choice model, social construction theory, and Bourdieu’s social, cultural, and financial capital definitions. This study hypothesizes students will enroll within 50 miles of home, a Greek and Latin root intervention will improve SAT scores, and GPA and concurrent credit classes are correlated to college enrollment, degree completion, and type of institution attended. This study also hypothesizes that the students who return home and re-enroll, or bounce back, after leaving for college do so because of financial, cultural, and social reasons. The methods and data chapter first explains the quantitative models of multinomial logistic regression, difference in differences, and univariate regression that are used and TRIO Upward Bound’s data collection process. It then explains the qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews for learning more about the bounce back. The findings suggest a majority of students enroll within 50 miles of home and follow national trends in SAT scores despite the intervention. GPA and concurrent credit classes are highly correlated with college enrollment and type of institution, but not always degree completion. The primary reasons students bounced back home related to a lack of social and cultural capital on the college campus when challenges arose. The study concludes with suggestions from the interviewees about how postsecondary institutions can better support first-generation, low-income, and academically at-risk students.