Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Inheriting college success 

The National Center for Education Statistics has published a report on the success of first-generation college attendees (i.e., those whose parents did not go to college). A summary of their findings:
The results indicate that first-generation students were at a disadvantage in terms of their access to, persistence through, and completion of postsecondary education. Once in college, their relative disadvantage continued with respect to coursetaking and academic performance. First-generation status was significantly and negatively associated with lower bachelor's degree completion rates even after controlling for a wide range of interrelated factors, including students' demographic backgrounds, academic preparation, enrollment characteristics, postsecondary coursetaking, and academic performance. This report also demonstrates that more credits and higher grades in the first year and fewer withdrawn or repeated courses were strongly related to the chances of students (regardless of generation status) persisting in postsecondary education and earning a bachelor's degree.
As well, students had trouble deciding on a major, had poorer credit-earning histories and got lower grades.

As I mentioned in the previous post, all the talk in our campus and many other places is how do we keep students here, get them through programs, and graduated? It should be fairly obvious that retention and graduation rates will fall as we attempt to expand access to higher education. If you think of what the difference between first-gen and second or higher-gen students are, it comes down to having parental experience with how to get a degree. That in turn suggests that we could target first-gen students with an additional layer of advising, or with first-year experiences -- these are the new fad on our campus -- that may compensate for the lack of parental knowledge of higher ed.