Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Carol L. Colbeck

Committee Members

Liliana Mina, Simone C. Conceicao, Barbara L. Bales


College, Culture, Students, Success, Transition, Working-class


Working-class students’ success in higher education is a growing concern for policymakers and administrators. Previous research has shown that working-class students experience less success in college than students who are of higher social classes (Lauff & Ingels, 2015; Walpole, 2007). This qualitative case study explored how the university environment and students’ cultural wealth influenced success of Latina, Black, and White female working-class students during their transitions to college. Specifically, this study followed 12 students at a large urban public four-year university. Participants engaged in semi-structured interviews three times before and during their first semester of college. The study is framed with a critical realist perspective using Schlossberg’s transition model (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006) and Yosso’s (2005) model of community cultural wealth. Analysis explored differences among participants’ achievement of self-defined outcomes. Findings suggest that Latina, Black, and White working-class female students have working-class cultural wealth that drives their success. Participants were more successful in nurturing campus environments. Findings offer recommendations for practitioners to improve outcomes for working-class students and recommendations for future research that addresses working-class students’ success.