Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




David Mathieu


A small, private university was the focus of this study, where rural first-generation college (FGC) students withdraw at higher rates than their continuing-generation counterparts. An objective of the university leadership is to increase student retention to foster a greater likelihood of degree completion. The research problem was the inability to retain rural FGC students. The purpose of the study was to explore parental support that promoted rural FGC student retention. The research questions addressed the students' perceptions about parental support and their decisions to remain enrolled. The research methodology was a qualitative case study design. Data were collected through semi structured interviews with a purposeful sample of 12 full-time FGC students from rural residential zip codes or counties. Transcribed interviews were coded and analyzed following a combination of approaches described by Creswell and Stake. The analysis revealed 6 themes: (a) parental support, (b) extended family relationships, (c) campus connection, (d) financial support, (e) community networks, and (f) institutional support. The results suggested that parental support shaped the students' decisions to remain enrolled. Based on the findings, a parent development project was designed to help university leadership and parents of rural FGC students engage collaboratively to improve retention. This study may contribute to positive social change, in that the resulting project may improve the students' ability to persist to degree completion and potentially give back to their rural communities.