Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Jason C. Garvey


The transition into and out of higher education is challenging for first-generation college students from limited income backgrounds. Though educational attainment gaps between low- and high-income students exist, students from low-income households can and do earn college degrees with access to appropriate resources. Increasing socioeconomic diversity in higher education is necessary to address societal needs and to reduce educational and income inequality. The purpose of this study is to examine how economic, social, and cultural capital influences the transition of low-income, first-generation students into college and into the workforce. Through the stories of nine “at-promise” students who received a Mitchell Institute Promise Scholarship that provides tuition support, leadership development experiences, and personalized mentoring, an understanding of how these students approach and move through college is gained. This longitudinal qualitative study uses an asset-based approach to examine the outcomes of the scholarship recipients who were selected as Promise Scholars based on experiencing traumatic circumstances prior to college enrollment such as homelessness, emancipation, and physical abuse. The results of this study identify the programmatic efforts of the Mitchell Institute that are most effective in supporting the Promise Scholars’ transitions and offer recommendations for the resources at-promise students require from institutions to navigate their college to career transitions. The Mitchell Institute is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase post-secondary degree attainment for all Maine students.



Number of Pages

190 p.