Predicting Academic Success among First-Year, First Generation Students

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Virginia Tech

Due to immigration the non-Hispanic White population continues to decrease and the population continues to change in regard to the ethnic and racial make-up. As these demographic changes take place higher education institutions will face increasing pressure from stakeholders to create environments that facilitate degree completion among mounting numbers of populations who are at risk in terms of academic success.

First generation status denotes one group of students who are at risk in terms of persistence towards a bachelor's degree. The purpose of this study was to examine what factors predict the academic success of first year, full-time first generation students. Furthermore, this study examined whether there is a relationship between race, gender, financial need, and language ability and factors used to predict the academic success of first generation students.

Factors were defined as variables measured by the 2002 Your First College Year Survey (YFCY) data (HERI, 2004a). Factors fell into five main areas: Student Background Characteristics, Agents of Socialization, Structural Characteristics, Institutional Environment, and Student Effort (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991).

The study was based on secondary analysis of the 2002 YFCY data provided by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. A combination of descriptive statistics, factor analysis, and logistic regression was used for this study.

Findings revealed there are significant differences between academically more successful FGs and FGs who are academically less successful in relation to three factors: Institutional Environment, Student Effort, and Agents of Socialization. FGs are more likely to experience academic success in regard to variables associated with the factor Institutional Environment. There is a greater likelihood FGs will be academically less successful in relation to variables associated with the factors Student Effort and Agents of Socialization. When considering demographic variables in relation to the three significant institutional factors, FGs who are Asian American are more likely to experience academic success. Alternatively, FGs have greater odds of being academically less successful if they are male, African American, Mexican American, and non-native speakers of English.

First Generation Students, Academic Success, Race, Gender, Financial Need, English Speaking Ability, Institutional Factors