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The Riverside case study focuses on the experiences of low-income women in postsecondary education (PSE) and examines how their meaning-making and decision-making about PSE arise out of the interactions they have within the context of community colleges. The study investigates how issues of class, gender, family/motherhood, and work shape women’s PSE trajectories.

Specifically, the case study will document and examine: (1) low-income women’s perceptions and experiences in postsecondary education programs/colleges, especially single mothers; (2) administrators and key faculty/staff perceptions of the supports and barriers for low-income students; and (3) how the current economic crisis in California is impacting resources for low-income students and community colleges in general.


Data Collection

  • In-Depth Interviews with 100 Low-Income Women in Community College: 3 waves of interviews per participant over the course of the 2010 -12 academic years
  • Student Background Survey
  • Interviews with Institutional Representatives: Including student support program staff, faculty, and administrators that students describe as playing an important role in their educational success.
  • Observations/Shadowing: Meetings, orientation sessions, and classes
  • Document Review



Christine Cerven, Postdoctoral Scholar, UCSD
Amanda Datnow
, Professor and Director of Education Studies, UCSD
Sheila Keegan, Assistant Program Coordinator,  UCSD
Jennifer Nations, Graduate Student Researcher, UCSD
Kelly Nielsen, Graduate Student Researcher, UCSD
Vicki Park, Director of Research, UCSD


Recent Publications

Policy Report: February 2013 | No. 2

What Matters for Community College Success?
Assumptions and Realities Concerning Student Supports for Low-Income Women

Vicki Park, Christine Cerven, Jennifer Nations, Kelly Nielsen


Policy Report: September 2013 | No. 11

College Can Be Complicated: Low-Income Single Mothers’ Experiences in Postsecondary Education

Christine Cerven, Vicki Park, Jennifer Nations, and Kelly Nielsen


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