Alfred Trafford

Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership


College of Education

First Advisor

Johnson, Ane


Illegal aliens; Education; Higher--United States


Higher Education Administration


Undocumented students transition to college in extremely low numbers due to a high degree of marginalization, inequity in access to higher education, and constitutional confusion regarding federal and state issues of supremacy and inferiority in immigration, tuition, and financial aid policies. Such students must contend not only with traditional challenges of teenagers in high school "including identity and development concerns and academic and social pressures" but also with the issue of not being in the United States legally. A narrative strategy of inquiry was used to collect, analyze, and interpret data from extensive participant interviews and a research journal; the interviews focused on each participant's life history, lived experience, and the meaning of their history and experience as it related to the study topic. Literary elements of creative nonfiction such as characterization, plot, setting, viewpoint, dialogue, and conflict were incorporated into the writing of participant stories and an interpretive memoir. The participants in the study were outliers, i.e., all of them made the postsecondary transition to higher education, in stark contrast to the paths of most of their undocumented peers. Findings show that they benefited from a structure of support, the ability to assimilate, and the empowerment of voice. Family also played a large role in the participants' ability to navigate the postsecondary transition successfully.