Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Helen Johnson

Committee Members

Daisuke Akiba

Jay Verkuilen

Eva Fernandez

Michelle Fine

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Educational Psychology | Higher Education


Higher education, student success, social ecology, critical theory, mixed methods


Ensuring success in higher education among historically underserved students is integral to social equity and mobility in the United States today. Scholars have called for research examining the complexity of factors determining educational pathways of students encountering circumstances that hinder progress toward a college degree in the context of broad-access public four-year universities and two-year community colleges, institutions most affected by declining federal and state support for higher education. The current research proposed a multidisciplinary applied model of underserved college student success to examine factors constraining and promoting the educational outcomes and social opportunities of undergraduate low-income, first in family to attend college, and students of color at the City University of New York (CUNY).

This model guided the design and implementation of a transformative mixed methods study focused on centering student perspectives and elevating issues of social justice. A cross-sectional survey was administered at three four-year colleges and three community colleges of CUNY (N=635), while individual interviews with first in family students at the focal senior colleges (N=10) and focus group discussions with students at the community colleges (N=47) were conducted concurrently. Findings indicated the structural realignment of public higher education exerts a negative influence on the trajectories of underserved students, particularly the current conditions of college teaching and learning. Implications of this research for broad-access public higher education institutions will be discussed.