First-Generation Filipino American Perceptions of Pursuing the American Dream Through Higher Education
Abstract: The American Dream, coined by writer and historian James Truslow Adams (as cited in Nakate, 2018), is the idea of opportunities for fulfilling dreams through hard work. Most people in the United States believe higher education is key for their families to contribute to society (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2017). To attain the American Dream, many first-generation Filipino American students and graduates have encountered barriers and accumulated excessive student loan debt. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenology theory study was to explore first-generation Filipino American graduates’ challenges and barriers of pursuing higher education through the idea of the American Dream. The target population of this study was first-generation Filipino Americans who had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the last 5 years, took out student loans to complete their degrees, and were born with U.S. citizenship or received U.S. citizenship before the age of five. The research method was qualitative, the design was phenomenology, and data were collected through individual interviews using purposive sampling. This study was guided by the following theories: servant leadership theory, transformational leadership theory, and supporting theories which included socioeconomic status, social identity theory, Asian American racial development theory, Pilipino American identity development theory, and the model minority myth. The researcher analyzed and interpreted the data from interview transcripts using Colaizzi’s (1978) seven-step process. The researcher provided a detailed explanation of the context of the values and beliefs of first-generation Filipino American students and graduates around educational beliefs, the American Dream, and challenges in higher education. Data from this study show it is important to create opportunities for improvement to expand college readiness to first-generation students in high school curriculum. The programs offered should provide more resources to first-generation students on college preparation, impact of financial aid, and career exploration, so first-generation students can feel like they are more prepared to enter college and succeed, creating a legacy for their families. Recommendations for future research include (a) further study of high school students, (b) further study of second-generation Filipino American students, (c) longitudinal studies, (d) expansion to other minority groups, (e) generational definitions of socioeconomic status, and (f) redefining the Model Minority Myth (MMM).