Institutions of higher education often use the term “at-risk” to label undergraduate students who have a higher likelihood of not persisting. However, it is not clear how the use of this label impacts the perspectives of the higher education professionals who serve and support these students. Our qualitative study explores the descriptions and understandings of higher education professionals who serve and support at-risk students. We use thematic analysis (Braun & Clark, 2006) to interpret our data and develop our themes. These themes include conflicting views of the “at-risk” definition, attempts to normalize at-risk, fostering relationships, and “at-promise.”


Labeling Theory, Higher Education, Student Success, At-Risk

Author Bio(s)

Nick Dix is a third year Ph.D. student at the University of Northern Colorado interested in the experiences of first-generation students and exploring the at-risk student populations in higher education. Nick is a Student Affairs professional with several years of experience with non-traditional learners. Please direct correspondence to dix4724@bears.unco.edu.

Andrew Lail is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership program at the University of Northern Colorado. He has worked in higher education for the last 5 years, specializing in identity and students in transition. Please direct correspondence to lail.drew@gmail.com.

Dr. Matt Birnbaum is a Professor in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership department at the University of Northern Colorado. Please direct correspondence to matthew.birnbaum@unco.edu.

Dr. Joseph Paris is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Temple University. His research and teaching focus on the intersection of institutional effectiveness and college student success and draw upon his professional experience in enrollment management and higher education marketing. His work analyzes the relationships between college admissions criteria and selection methodologies, institutional finance, and access to postsecondary education. Please direct correspondence to joseph.paris@temple.edu.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.




https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5674-0698; https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7636-903X; https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3694-1235



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