Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Learning, Leadership and Change

First Advisor

Delores E. McNair

First Committee Member

Laura Hallberg

Second Committee Member

Belinda Hernandez


The rising costs of college attendance and changes in financial aid packages leave students with little option other than to incur a debt of some amount. Unfortunately, colleges often fail to provide adequate financial literacy and student loan information so prospective students planning to attend college can make informed decisions. Student loans may seem attractive in the short term because, unlike other loans, repayment does not begin immediately. However, the accrual of student loan debt leads to long-term financial consequences, including the opportunity to build economic wealth after graduation. Utilizing a basic qualitative research design, I explored first-generation community college students’ experiences with financial aid, financial literacy, and the challenges and individual circumstances of using student loans to fund expenses related to their postsecondary enrollment. A human capital framework supported students informed financial decision-making experiences to effectively persist confidently in pursuing their educational goals. Collectively, students’ detailed statements provided a powerful voice for first-generation students accessing financial resources at the community college. The six themes included (a) Student-Centered, (b) Understanding Consequences of Student Loans, (c) Development of Financial Aid Literacy, (d) Student-Connection, (e) Simplifying Financial Aid Access for Students, and (f) Support From Campus-Based Programs. Findings provide helpful insights for community college practitioners and financial aid administrators.