Title

First-generation college students: A study of experiences and academic success

Presenter Information

Eli Stav, Broward College

Location

Merritt Room

Start Time

3-10-2015 1:00 PM

End Time

3-10-2015 2:30 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Objectives: Following the presentation, participants will:

1) Recognize the occupational injustices experienced by first-generation college students

2) Understand some of the higher education experiences of first-generation college students

3) Appreciate the gap left by society’s social justice approach which may be resolved by an occupational justice approach

Statement of Purpose: Historically, first-generation college students have poor academic performance and low completion rates compared to their traditional counterparts despite funding and program efforts instituted in the 1960s through the Higher Education Act. The aim of the study is to identify patterns of academic performance and of predictors of academic outcomes while capturing the experiences of first-generation college students specific to their perceptions of college life, utilization of supportive resources available to them, and perception of success. Ultimately, the purpose of this study is to understand what leads to academic success for first-generation college students in an effort to inform stakeholders about the most supportive constellation of services that will heighten performance, improve retention and graduation rates, and optimize occupational opportunities among first-generation college students.

Description of Methods: This study used a mixed methods convergent parallel design to capture the lived experiences of first-generation community college students while identifying differences and predictors in academic performance between this population and other students. The qualitative portion of the study explored the experiences of first-generation college students’ successes, challenges, and utilization of resources through interviews with students, interviews with advisers, a focus group, and participant observation at first-generation events. Data were transcribed and coded multiple times using an interative process with expert review of the data which yielded similar codes. Codes were categorized by commonalities in sentiment until themes emerged. A disconfirming case was used t o Member checking was completed with a majority of the participants who verified accuracy of the themes. Using a concurrent technique, the quantitative portion of the study examined academic performance, retention rates, and test scores guiding course placement, and financial aid usage of 300 students; 100 traditional students, 100 first-generation students receiving support services, and 100 first-generation students without services. Quantitative data was analyzed using ANOVAs, crosstabs, and Chi square to compare the groups and identify predictors. The simultaneous data collection yielded results at the same time which were then integrated for a comprehensive understanding of first-generation college student successes and experiences.

Report of the Results:The results of the study suggest that first-generation college students enroll in college academically underprepared, enroll in far more developmental courses, complete fewer credits, earn lower GPAs, and are less likely to complete degrees or transfer out to a four-year institution. The predictive analyses revealed that receiving Student Support Services made first-generation students 73% as likely to transfer to a four-year institution and 52% as likely to graduate. Some of these results may be explained by the themes that emerged from the perspectives of the students and advisors. The themes, It’s not the journey, it’s the destination; Travel into a new world; and Using travel aids, suggest that first-generation college students enter college with a different perspective and motivation goals compared to those of their traditional peers, and they encounter a very different culture while enrolled, but make use of resources to support their performance.

Discussion/Implications: The existing, largely financial resources available to first-generation and low-income college students is not narrowing the achievement gap after decades of efforts. This approach has used a social justice paradigm to improve access and affordability in an attempt to equity rather than an occupational justice approach to enable engagement in higher education. An occupational justice lens will allow colleges to value different occupational capacities and different occupational meanings. There are complex racial and socioeconomic disparities in higher education that cannot be resolved without considering the students as occupational beings to support their occupational engagement holistically. The results of this study suggest a paradigm shift is necessary in the provision of student support to extend beyond classroom and academic performance and into social and cultural strata to alter the expectations of performance society-wide. Only after these paradigm shifts are in place will all students, regardless of race or socioeconomic background, experience occupational justice.

Keywords: first-generation college students, occupational justice, higher education

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Oct 3rd, 1:00 PM Oct 3rd, 2:30 PM

First-generation college students: A study of experiences and academic success

Merritt Room

Objectives: Following the presentation, participants will:

1) Recognize the occupational injustices experienced by first-generation college students

2) Understand some of the higher education experiences of first-generation college students

3) Appreciate the gap left by society’s social justice approach which may be resolved by an occupational justice approach

Statement of Purpose: Historically, first-generation college students have poor academic performance and low completion rates compared to their traditional counterparts despite funding and program efforts instituted in the 1960s through the Higher Education Act. The aim of the study is to identify patterns of academic performance and of predictors of academic outcomes while capturing the experiences of first-generation college students specific to their perceptions of college life, utilization of supportive resources available to them, and perception of success. Ultimately, the purpose of this study is to understand what leads to academic success for first-generation college students in an effort to inform stakeholders about the most supportive constellation of services that will heighten performance, improve retention and graduation rates, and optimize occupational opportunities among first-generation college students.

Description of Methods: This study used a mixed methods convergent parallel design to capture the lived experiences of first-generation community college students while identifying differences and predictors in academic performance between this population and other students. The qualitative portion of the study explored the experiences of first-generation college students’ successes, challenges, and utilization of resources through interviews with students, interviews with advisers, a focus group, and participant observation at first-generation events. Data were transcribed and coded multiple times using an interative process with expert review of the data which yielded similar codes. Codes were categorized by commonalities in sentiment until themes emerged. A disconfirming case was used t o Member checking was completed with a majority of the participants who verified accuracy of the themes. Using a concurrent technique, the quantitative portion of the study examined academic performance, retention rates, and test scores guiding course placement, and financial aid usage of 300 students; 100 traditional students, 100 first-generation students receiving support services, and 100 first-generation students without services. Quantitative data was analyzed using ANOVAs, crosstabs, and Chi square to compare the groups and identify predictors. The simultaneous data collection yielded results at the same time which were then integrated for a comprehensive understanding of first-generation college student successes and experiences.

Report of the Results:The results of the study suggest that first-generation college students enroll in college academically underprepared, enroll in far more developmental courses, complete fewer credits, earn lower GPAs, and are less likely to complete degrees or transfer out to a four-year institution. The predictive analyses revealed that receiving Student Support Services made first-generation students 73% as likely to transfer to a four-year institution and 52% as likely to graduate. Some of these results may be explained by the themes that emerged from the perspectives of the students and advisors. The themes, It’s not the journey, it’s the destination; Travel into a new world; and Using travel aids, suggest that first-generation college students enter college with a different perspective and motivation goals compared to those of their traditional peers, and they encounter a very different culture while enrolled, but make use of resources to support their performance.

Discussion/Implications: The existing, largely financial resources available to first-generation and low-income college students is not narrowing the achievement gap after decades of efforts. This approach has used a social justice paradigm to improve access and affordability in an attempt to equity rather than an occupational justice approach to enable engagement in higher education. An occupational justice lens will allow colleges to value different occupational capacities and different occupational meanings. There are complex racial and socioeconomic disparities in higher education that cannot be resolved without considering the students as occupational beings to support their occupational engagement holistically. The results of this study suggest a paradigm shift is necessary in the provision of student support to extend beyond classroom and academic performance and into social and cultural strata to alter the expectations of performance society-wide. Only after these paradigm shifts are in place will all students, regardless of race or socioeconomic background, experience occupational justice.

Keywords: first-generation college students, occupational justice, higher education