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Giving Voice to Undergraduate Students with Psychiatric Disabilities Persisting toward Degree Completion Open Access

Giving Voice to Undergraduate Students with Psychiatric Disabilities Persisting toward Degree CompletionStudents with psychiatric disabilities entering college are a population currently on the rise. Yet, they consistently have lower graduation rates compared to their peers without disabilities. Consequently, this precludes these students from the economic and social benefits associated with educational attainment in our current knowledge economy. The high collegiate withdrawal rate for this student population is attributable to the inherent complexities associated with psychiatric disabilities, which have ultimately led to various barriers to retention. Literature has predominately focused on this student population's departure from college prior to graduation, with fewer studies underscoring their academic success. This qualitative study was conducted to highlight the underemphasis on undergraduate students with psychiatric disabilities who are persisting toward degree completion. Primarily viewed through the lens of Tinto's theory of college student departure, this study gave voice to a traditionally marginalized population through an analysis of personal interviews with undergraduate students with psychiatric disabilities who were persisting in college. The overarching finding from this study was that the students' psychiatric disabilities impacted their collegiate persistence daily, to varying degrees, whether academically, socially, or personally. Results revealed that students experienced their psychiatric disabilities uniquely, while each encountering barriers to retention that are often associated with collegiate withdrawal among students with psychiatric disabilities. Despite experiencing such barriers, the students in the study credited their self-determination and use of established support systems as underlying factors to their academic persistence. This culminating finding constituted the students' resiliency to pursue their undergraduate degrees in spite of their complex psychiatric disabilities.

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