Date of Award

9-2010

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

First Advisor

Joseph Berger

Second Advisor

Benita Barnes

Third Advisor

Daniel Gerber

Subject Categories

Education

Abstract

Community colleges have always played a crucial role in providing access to college, especially for students with disabilities. At the same time the rate of completion is exceptionally low for this particular population (Belch, 2004). In order to improve persistence and achievement measurably, colleges may seek clues in successful transitions by students with disabilities. This project presents a qualitative research study to illuminate factors that contribute to semester-by-semester success of community college students with disabilities during their first year. A conceptual model of successful transitional processes was developed from theoretical constructs reported in the literature and was expanded by data from individual case studies. Seven very strong stages emerged as a result of the research. These stages were: 1) pre-college experiences that influence academic involvement, 2) initial encounters that created first impressions, 3) transition shock, 4) support-seeking and strategic adjustment 5) prioritizing and balancing of college and non-college commitments, 6) recognizing success, and 7) a sense of belonging to the college community. These results indicated a successful transition into college is an important first step in persistence for students with disabilities. Persistence of students with disabilities requires further attention and research in order to improve graduation rates of these students at community colleges.

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