Dissertation

What Are the Factors of Summer Bridge Programs that Contributed to Retention in Underserved and Underrepresented Populations?

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The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the lived experiences of underserved and underrepresented students who participated in a college summer bridge program. In particular, the study investigated how the summer bridge program prepared students academically and socially to succeed in a college environment and identified any contributing factors to their retention. This study looked at a summer bridge program, ASCEND (Achieving Success by Cultivating Excellence and Nurturing Discovery) at New Jersey City University (NJCU), which is a public 4-year urban institution. The study also identified various types of summer bridge programs as well as highlighted the observed strengths and weaknesses. Contained in this study is an overview of current literature on summer bridge programs and outlines how these programs specifically affect retention in underserved and underrepresented populations. The theoretical framework utilized to guide this research study was Vincent Tinto’s (1993) Theory on Student Retention. His theory seemed fitting for this study, which focused on the academic and social aspects of student retention. Guiding the conversation for this research study were the following questions: how do underrepresented/underserved students describe their experiences with summer bridge programs? And, what specific factors do students identify as having contributed to their retention? The research study identified two significant findings as contributing factors to student retention related to their participation in the summer bridge program, which included academic preparation and social integration. The first finding involved academic preparation. Many participants felt that participation in the summer bridge program provided an effortless transition from high school to college life, making their time in college a success. The second significant finding regarded the social aspect of the summer bridge program. The students felt like they “belonged” and “fit in” to the college environment, which resulted in a positive educational experience. Having been given proper navigational skills for the college environment, students did not feel lost. Also, seeing familiar faces among their professors and staff and gaining friendships throughout the summer bridge program enhanced the start of an exciting new chapter in their lives.

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