Date of Award

Spring 3-8-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yesenia Madas, Ed.D.


Persistence, EOF, first-generation, low-income, social engagement, family dynamic, achievement gap, financial support


First-generation and low-income students more often find pursuing and completing a college degree challenging, compared to their second-generation peers who come from higher income households. However, in order to mitigate the challenges faced by this marginalized group of students, opportunity programs, such as New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund Program (EOF), have been developed to provide these students with resources to assist them in not only gaining access to a post-secondary education but also to provide services to assist in their path towards degree completion. This program is a critical resource in providing orientation as well as needed skills for post-secondary success (Clauss-Ehlers and Wibrowski, 2007). In this qualitative study, 12 sophomore participants enrolled in an EOF program at a four-year public institution were interviewed through the utilization of semi-structured interviews. Through these interviews, participants were able to share their experiences regarding the most salient components of the EOF program that has led to their persistence in college. Through the data analysis participants were asked questions which highlight some challenges which effect student access, persistence, and graduation from college. Challenges such as financial challenges, social engagement, and academic support. The findings of this study determined that the participants of the program developed familial connections with their peers and program administration; thus, providing an added level of support in the student’s pursuit of a degree. Additionally, the findings noted that the program address academic, financial, and social engagement gaps many first-generation and low-income students face in their college degree completion.