Date of Award

Fall 10-19-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lisa Caselli, Ph.D.


Disability in Higher Education, Student Diversity, Postsecondary Education


The current understanding of student disability continues to be misperceived as a form of impairment, rather than as a part of student diversity within the higher education environment. Although nearly one in ten college students have a documented disability affecting cognitive, physical, or psychological functioning, stigmatization of students with disabilities continues to occur in the postsecondary environment. The purpose of this study is to examine if there is a perceived difference in academic and social inclusion within the postsecondary environment for students with and without disabilities. Guided by the theory of intersectionality, minority group model, and social model of disability, this study also contributes the Disability-Diversity (Dis)Connect Model (DDDM), a new conceptual framework which establishes that student disability is an integrated, non-limiting identity within a student’s college experience. Data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) was used to investigate academic and social integration of students with and without disabilities enrolled in four-year institutions. Descriptive and inferential analyses, including independent samples t-tests and multiple regressions, were conducted to examine the following: (1) the difference, if any, in socio-academic integration for students with and without disabilities in higher education, (2) the predictive influence of demographic characteristics including disability, race/ ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status on socio-academic integration in higher education, and (3) the predictive influence of disability type, race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status on socio-academic integration among students with disabilities in higher education. The findings of this study indicate that disability type and gender negatively contribute to students’ ability to socially integrate. Overall, findings suggest that students with non-apparent disabilities are more likely to struggle with social integration and have a potentially impaired sense of membership in the social sphere of campus.