Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Kathryn P. Alessandria, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dana Morrison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Francis Atuahene, Ph.D., MPA


This qualitative case-study explored how the financial aid application process contributed to or detracted from the persistence of first-generation college (FGC) students. FGC students are the first in their families to attend college and make up one-third of college-going students each year (RTI International, 2019). FGC students use financial aid at a higher rate than their continuing generation peers, are less likely to have funding from outside sources, such as their parents (Martinez et al., 2009), are more likely to default on their student loans, and do not persist to graduation at the same rate as their non-FGC peers. Semi-structured interviews were used to learn about the experiences of FGC students as they navigated the financial aid process throughout their college career. The semi-structured interviews provided insight about the financial aid application process from the eyes of four FGC students. Participants were currently enrolled FGC students at different points in their college careers who were recipients of financial aid. The interview data were analyzed through both inductive and deductive coding and presented as individual cases. Then data were analyzed using a cross-case analysis. Findings showed that participants had persisted in ways that were not expected based on well-known retention models. The financial aid participants received as a result of the financial aid application process contributed to their persistence.