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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Ryan Wells

Second Advisor

Ezekiel Kimball

Third Advisor

Melissa Wooten

Subject Categories

Higher Education


Elite institutions of higher education have been under increased scrutiny for failing to provide equitable access, and rightly so. Recent research reveals that students from underserved populations are severely underrepresented at elite colleges and universities. These findings echo research conducted nearly fifteen years ago, indicating that despite class-based policy efforts, like need-blind admission and no-loan financial aid, little movement has been made to expand access to students who could benefit the most from an elite education. This lack of movement serves as the entry point for this study, which argued that if community college transfer is to make a difference as a pathway, then more needs to be known about this function, and in particular there is a need for in-depth case studies of successful community college transfer initiatives at elite institutions. Within a theoretical and empirical contextual frame, this study examines Bucknell University’s Community College Scholars Program (BCCSP), which has been in operation since 2006, and is considered a successful, model program. This study does so by positioning BCCSP as the extension of an earlier community college transfer initiative at Bucknell, the Student Transfer Enrichment Program (STEP), which began in 1988 and ran for several years. The goal of this dissertation was not to generate theory or to find causal relationships, but to tell the story of Bucknell’s longstanding support for community college transfer. As an intrinsic case study, it engaged in an historical analysis, via archival research, of STEP, and then in qualitative data analysis of interviews with staff and faculty who are currently part of BCCSP. In combining these two sets of analyses, this study found that Bucknell’s longstanding support for community college transfer students represents an organizational saga. It concludes that while this saga may be unique to Bucknell, Bucknell’s story can be used as a cautionary yet hopeful tale for peer institutions interested in developing programs for community college transfer as a way to provide equitable access to students from underserved populations.