First Advisor

Lindsey Wilkinson

Date of Publication

Fall 1-14-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Transfer students -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Commuting college students, Interpersonal relations, Persistence, Engagement (Philosophy), Portland State University -- Students -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 178 pages)


Over the last 40 years, the expansion of the U.S. community college system resulted in a growing number of students choosing to begin their undergraduate education at a two-year institution and then transfer to a four-year institution. However, many students struggle to establish connection after transferring, especially if they transfer into a commuter university. For many college students, feelings of engagement and connection influence their persistence decisions. Using Tinto's (1975; 1993) and Astin's (1984) theories of student persistence as a framework, the purpose of this in-depth interview study is to explore how commuter community college students who transfer to Portland State University in Portland, Oregon experience connection to the university. This study also aims to identify how commuter community college transfer students become connected to PSU and how the connection experiences for these students change over time.

This in-depth interview study explores the connection experiences of 14 commuter community college transfer students who transferred as college juniors. Students were at different points after transferring at the time of their interviews. This study suggests that commuter community college transfer students enroll at four-year universities with no intention of connecting to the institution. Instead, students initially focus on their academic progress. Students then establish instrumental relationships with faculty and classmates as needed in order to progress in their academics. Only once students establish strong connections with faculty and classmates do they begin to establish social relationships that provide additional forms of social support outside of the support they receive from their home social systems.


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