Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology

First Committee Member

Mario Martinez, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Doris L. Watson, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Brandy Smith, Ph.D.

Fourth Committee Member

Cecilia Maldonado-Daniels, Ph.D.

Number of Pages



The student populations most at risk of non-completion are those who identify as low-income, first-generation, and Black or Hispanic, also known as underrepresented students. For years, the existing literature has primarily focused on why underrepresented students are less likely to graduate than their counterparts (Choy, 2000; Engle & Tinto, 2008; Ishitani, 2006; Pike & Kuh, 2005; Soria & Stebleton, 2012). Harper (2012) emphasizes that to increase the educational attainment of certain underrepresented groups, there must be a counter balance of research focusing on insights from students who were successful rather than the popular one-sided emphasis on attrition and failure. The current study uses an anti-deficit approach to examine the development of self-efficacy beliefs of underrepresented students who have successfully completed a baccalaureate degree. The purpose of this study is to use the voices of underrepresented students who have successfully completed a baccalaureate degree to investigate if and how their higher education self-efficacy beliefs were developed. Additionally, to examine if and how the four sources of self-efficacy, or any alternate source, influenced their successful completion. Bandura’s (1997) self-efficacy theory provided the framework for the current study. A qualitative, multiple case study method was employed using in depth, semi-structured interviews to obtain data for the current study.

Results reveal several factors and experiences that were influential in the development of self-efficacy beliefs for underrepresented students. Three of the four self-efficacy sources emerged as influential in the development of higher education self-efficacy beliefs for these participants. Experiences such as: Faculty and staff verbally stating high expectations to these participants, providing holistic support, and validating academic potential emerged as influential contributors to self-efficacy beliefs. Additionally, observing peers and mentors from similar backgrounds who were goal-oriented and successful emerged as influential. Positive performance accomplishments, such as earning academic recognitions, completing academic tasks and having access to future opportunities emerged as impactful over the traditional academic accomplishments such as GPA. Various other factors emerged as positive influences in the success of these underrepresented participants, such as having a sociocultural responsibility, having Grit and resisting negative stereotypes.


College dropouts; Completion; First-generation college students; Low-income college students; Minority college graduates; Minority college students; Self-efficacy; Underrepresented student


Education | Educational Psychology | Higher Education

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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