Investigating Academic and Psychosocial Outcomes of First-Generation African American Postsecondary Students who completed Early College Access Programming:  A Qualitative Case Study

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Virginia Tech


This qualitative bounded case study examines both the benefits and challenges faced by first-generation African American students who have completed early college access programming (ECAP). Not all children have equal access to higher education, therefore educators have been trying to bridge the gap in education for years. Due to socio-economic challenges in society, there has been a colossal increase in the need for diversity and inclusion within postsecondary institutions. Students from various ethnicities and backgrounds bring different experiences to education and the education learned through those various experiences are valuable. Inequalities in college access experienced by first-generation African American students is the lens for this study. This study addresses the effectiveness of early college access and its effects on first-generation African American students' postsecondary academic and psychosocial outcomes. Driven by critical race theory, this study analyzed student perceptions of their participation in ECAP and whether it supported their academic achievement in college. The study consisted of 10 interviews with Achievable Dream alumni enrolled in six universities across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Results were analyzed using inductive coding to identify components that affect academic achievement. Findings suggest that participation in early college access programming established an educational foundation which led to positive outcomes in academic achievement throughout postsecondary education. In addition to positive outcomes, barriers to achieving academic success were also identified.



college access, academic achievement, bridging the gap, critical race theory, minority, first-generation, African American, underrepresented