Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Jianping Shen

Third Advisor

Dr. Kay L. Keck


Transition issues, motivational driver, grit, academic issues, self-esteem/self-efficacy, family/friend support


The vision statement of the first community college in the Dominican Republic (DR) notes that it is “an institution of higher technical level aimed at offering opportunities for development, forming competent, ethical and innovative professionals through a relevant curriculum assuming a solidarity integration with business and social sectors" (Instituto Tecnico Superior Comunitario [ITSC], 2012, para. 1). Each day, the institution tries to help individuals achieve their lifelong dreams by providing a quality education so that graduates may benefit economically, socially, and personally, and reach a better quality of life that expands those benefits to their community, country and the whole world. Access to education is a crucial issue in the context of the current world order, and opportunities come closer when an individual is better educated. Parents, educators, policymakers, and both current and former high school students are progressively more convinced that some higher education is an essential requirement for finding balanced well-paying jobs and becoming beneficial contributors to society (Belfield & Bailey, 2011).

The purpose of this study was to identify the first-year experiences of students who attend the DR’s first community college, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. Participants included 396 respondents to a survey that focused on any explicit academic, social and emotional issues these students encountered in their first year at this community college. Data were also captured on supports these students did or did not find in the community college environment to assist them with their post-secondary education, as well as what motivated them to achieve their goals. The research design of this study was descriptive and cross-sectional. Descriptive statistics, one-way between subject ANOVAs, and multiple regressions were used to analyze the data.

Results reveal that Dominican students who are non-traditional, first generation and in their first-year community college students reported fairly high motivation levels for attending college and levels of self-esteem, and medium levels of grit and self-efficiency. Support from family as an individual survey item was high, while other personal supports from friends, roommates, and their community was lower. Of all transition issues, those related to economic issues were the highest concern, followed by about equal levels of social, academic and emotional concerns, all of which were medium high.

Students often reported that they were not aware of support from the counseling and student service offices, nor the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. Yet, for those who did report engagement in counseling, every 1.0-point increase in such engagement predicts a 38% increase in their reported commitment to graduate. First generation was also a significant predictor of GPA.

These results could assist in the development of programs and practices directed toward increasing the participation of students within community college activities during their first year. This study recommends ideas to help support student success in this new model of education in the DR.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access