Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Higher Education Policy and Student Affairs

Committee Chairperson

Jason Wozniak, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dana Morrison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jacqueline S. Hodes, Ed.D.

Committee Member

John Elmore, Ph.D.


This thesis will examine how institutions of higher education can better serve first-generation college students through supplemental programs that assist in transitioning students into higher education. I will explore the following questions: What is a first-generation college student? What is the importance of orientation in higher education? How does social capital affect the experience of first-generation college students orienting and integrating into higher education? How is neoliberal ideology shaping the college student experience? What are the motives behind first-generation college students wanting to attend college and their perceptions of college? How can institutions better serve first-generation college students? This paper will use student development theories, social capital theory, neoliberalism, intersectionality, and ideology to critically analyze the first-generation college student experience. As we look at first-generation college students through a theoretical and historical context for support, I will propose the development of an extended orientation program for first-generation college students that aims to increase academic and social integration into higher education.