Achieving voices: A qualitative study of how students in the Ability-to-Benefit program at a proprietary college construct their experiences
Tsegai, Adiam K.
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This qualitatively-based research study provides a means by which educators, policy-makers, and other interested parties can better understand how first-through fifth-semester students, currently attending a proprietary, associate degree granting college as part of the federally-sponsored Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) program, narrate their prior experiences in high school and their transition to college. This study involved in-depth interviews with twenty-five ATB participants enrolled in an urban campus of a proprietary college. Understanding that high school dropout rates influence the entire scope of the ATB population, this dissertation seeks to answer the question: How are students, who drop out of high school and become "school leavers," affected by and negotiate their way through such a program? Additionally, what are students' current experiences within the college (with respect to faculty, staff, and curricula) and how do they narrate the influence of their families and communities with respect to the relationship between their pre-college and college level experiences? Rather than reaching a "final point" or event, that propels students to leave school, it is determined that a process exists whereby, over time, students become school leavers. One of the most profound findings of the study is the fact that the participants overwhelming articulated that, through the ATB program, they found a place to redefine their identity. Participants speak to being able to identify within the school community--specifically a College community, unlike their previous GED experiences. This sense of identity that was missing in their previous academic experiences became a positive factor that helped reconnect them to the educational pipeline.