Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Birren, Jill

Second Advisor

Eckman. Ellen

Third Advisor

Burant, Terry


Policymakers, philanthropists, and related stakeholders assert that education is “the civil rights issue of our generation” (The White House, n.d). In turn, a career-based business model where “career and technical education encourages employability” (Wilder, 2013) has been implemented, providing readily accessible post-secondary opportunities to address perpetual societal inequality. Many stakeholders perceive the two-year institution as helping bridge the perpetual equity gap by creating access streams needed to acquire good-paying jobs. Because of the diverse socioeconomic student narrative within the Midwestern technical college, a study inquiry was conducted to ascertain the institution’s ability to reproduce the desired results advertised by public policy and determine whether this incremental process “reflects the kinds of things that society ought to be doing to help the marginalized” (Fischer, 2006, p.1) and to address current research gaps. Following Fischer’s (2006) Interpretive Policy Analysis Framework, all research activities were conducted via a sequential explanatory mixed methods design to not only verify empirical and descriptive program data, but also to obtain the participants’ perspectives, sense of agency, and overall outcomes simultaneously with higher level societal goals and values via interpretive analysis. Although each variable’s impact on student success will depend on individual situations, participants specifically discerned systems within the pathway framework inhibiting outcomes. From both the nominal and interpretive research data, maintaining the pathway model as-is potentially impeded social progress and economic stability, especially for the most vulnerable populace. This project provided the chance to appreciate pathway graduate/learner’s persistence even when multiple personal and educational barriers existed while attending school. The complex nature of how this policy affected non-traditional students afforded the opportunity to “not only assess the progress of achieving the (pathway model’s) goal, but the appropriateness of the goal itself” (Fischer, 2006, p. 6) to create or dissuade societal value within the adjacent urban community.

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Education Commons