Perceptions of underprepared community college students regarding their educational achievement

Peter Barbatis, Florida International University


The purpose of this study was to understand the perceptions of underprepared college students who had participated in learning communities and who persisted to complete developmental classes and earned at least 30 college-level credit hours to graduate and the perceptions of their peers who had dropped out of college. The theories posed by Tinto, Astin, and Freire formed the framework for this case study. The 22 participants were graduates or transfer students now attending a public university, currently-enrolled sophomores, and students no longer enrolled at the time of the study. Semi-structured individual interviews and a group interview provided narrative data which were transcribed, coded, and analyzed to gain insights into the experiences and perspectives of the participants. The group interview provided a form of member checking to increase accuracy in interpreting themes. A peer reviewer provided feedback on the researcher’s data analysis procedures. The analysis yielded four themes and 14 sub-themes which captured the essence of the participants’ experiences. The pre-college characteristics/traits theme described the students’ internal values and attributes acquired prior to college. The external college support/community influence theme described the encouragement to attend college the students received from family, friends, and high school teachers. The social involvement theme described the students’ participation in campus activities and their interactions with other members of the campus. The academic integration theme described students’ use of campus resources and their contacts with the faculty. The persisters reported strong family and peer support, a sense of responsibility, appreciation for dedicated and caring faculty, and a belief that an education can be a liberatory means to achieve their goals. The non-persisters did not report having the same sense of purpose, goal orientation, determination, obligation to meet family expectations, peer support, campus involvement, positive faculty experiences, and time management skills. The researcher offers an emerging model for understanding factors associated with persistence and three recommendations for enhancing the academic experience of underprepared college students: (a) include a critical pedagogy perspective in coursework where possible, (b) integrate co-curricular activities with the academic disciplines, and (c) increase student-faculty interaction.

Subject Area

Community college education|Ethnic studies|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Barbatis, Peter, "Perceptions of underprepared community college students regarding their educational achievement" (2008). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3358430.