The role of student support services programs in motivating students to persist in postsecondary institutions
McKenzie, Jonathan (Student of education)
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The purpose of this study was to obtain a holistic view of aspects of a Student Support Services (SSS) program to understand how that program might motivate students to persist in and graduate from college. A case study design was used for this research investigation. An SSS program that had years of experience and a successful track record in assisting first-generation, low-income students to persist in and graduate from the postsecondary institution (located at a mid-sized university) was selected for in-depth case study. This study examined the extent to which program services as well as the program professional staff were identified as motivating participants to persist in and graduate from college. This study employed qualitative techniques to collect data from former SSS participants and from program staff. Eight SSS graduates and three staff members of a SSS program were the participants. Each participant was interviewed using a tape recorder to ensure accurate recording of responses. An analysis of the data revealed that former SSS participants were motivated by program staff to remain enrolled in and eventually graduate from the institution. From this study, four themes emerged: financial support, integration, relationships and enlightenment (F.I.R.E.). Together, they represent what motivated students to succeed at the postsecondary institution. The need for financial assistance (counseling and tuition and fees) caused some participants to join and remain in the program. The participants indicated that they were helped to integrate into the social and academic systems of the program and institution. They were encouraged and allowed to socially interact with their peers at a very high level, which sometimes led to meaningful relationships. Finally, they felt enlightened as a result of program staff, activities, and unimagined opportunities afforded to them through the SSS program.