Retention and graduation rates are measures of success for institutions of higher education. First-generation college students have been identified in the literature as being at-risk of attrition. This research compared first-generation and continuing-generation students at a medium-sized, public, four-year university to determine if and to what extent they differ in terms of pre-college traits, within college experiences and learning outcomes. First-generation college students were compared to continuing-generation students using a large database already in existence at the study institution. Over five thousand students responded to a variety of survey questions. Approximately twenty-four hundred first-generation college students were compared to approximately twenty-five hundred continuing generation college students on a variety of variables. Approximately fifty-three variables were used to compare first-generation to continuing-generation students. Terenzini et al.'s (1996) theoretical framework was used to identify variable dimensions for comparison such as pre-college characteristics, within college experiences, overall college satisfaction, and learning outcomes.
First-generation college students; entered the study institution with lower average ACT composite scores, came from families with lower household incomes, were less likely to participate in class, were less likely to get to know other students, worked more hours, spent fewer weekends on campus, had lower GPA's, and were less likely to be retained from first to second year. Findings at the study institution were similar to findings at other institutions studied in the literature.
In order for this institution to increase its retention and graduation rates it should consider developing retention programs aimed at first-generation college students. Further qualitative analysis on
the differences identified in this research will aid in the design of the program for first-generation college students.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. August 2012. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Dr. Darwin Hendel. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 122 pages.
Schultz, Amber Marie.
A comparative study of first-generation and continuing-generation college students at a single four-year public university..
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