Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

W. Hal Knight

Committee Members

Terrence A. Tollefson, Glenn Bettis, Cecil N. Blankenship


According to Kerlin (1995a), first-generation students are not expected to survive to doctorate degree attainment because of vulnerability to negative affects associated with their status; yet persist they do at East Tennessee State University. The desire to study the first-generation East Tennessee State University's Doctors of Education and the limited number of first-generation graduate studies available, especially in the academic field of education, promoted developing this study. It was the intent of this study to offer additional empirical research toward understanding variables associated with first-generation persistence as encountered by East Tennessee State University's Doctors of education.

Quantitative analysis derived through survey research served as an explanatory framework to investigate major variables of first-generation persistence. The survey targeted East Tennessee State University's Doctors of Education who received degrees prior to June 2004.

Investigation of empirical evidence revealed that unlike previous first-generation studies (Hayes, 1997; Hurley, 2002; Inman and Mayes, 1999; Khanh, 2002; NCES, 1998; Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella, and Nora, 1996) the bulk (73.7%) of East Tennessee State University Doctors of Education were first-generation. Moreover, although previous studies suggested the presence of unique barriers attributed to first-generation status, no significant differences resulted in either identification or ranking of barriers or facilitators to degree attainment between first-generation East Tennessee State University's Doctors of Education and their non-first-generation counterparts.

The Survey of ETSU Doctors of Education requested respondents prioritize identified barriers and facilitators. After plotting significant bivariate coordinate pairs among ranked barriers and facilitators, flat line (zero sloped) clusters depicted the presence of six weak monotone associations among variables. Facilitator rankings were associated with a respondent's age, parental college attendance, and education specialist degree, while barrier rankings were associated with a respondent's marital status at the time of degree attainment, secondary support source, and post doctorate employment.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.