First Generation College Students Face Obstacles To Graduation

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 9:36am
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A new study shows there is no difference in employment rates and salaries between first-generation college students and their peers.

However, the data analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics shows students whose parents did not attend college face longer odds of securing a diploma.

In the area of college preparedness, only 18 percent take Advanced Placement of International Baccalaureate credits, compared to 44 percent of students whose parents received a degree.

They’re also less likely to apply in the first place. The study, which analyzed data from 2002 to 2012, found 72 percent of first-gen students enrolled in a postsecondary program. Compared to 93 percent.

This data concerns experts.

“Getting to college is complex, there’s a lot of different decisions that have to be made,” said Laerna Perna, a professor in the graduate school of education at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on how students of different groups enroll and succeed in college.

”One of the strengths of our education system is that we have so many different types of colleges, we have so many major fields but all of that adds complexity,” Perna said.

Once enrolled, first generation college students are twice as likely to leave without earning a degree or credential.

Researchers said these complex rituals, like class scheduling, the importance of office hours and how to read syllabi can be a big factor in making it to graduation. Having family that understands the unique stresses faced by college students is also helpful when students need support and advice.

“So students who have parents who have successfully navigated college have a certain level of familiarity and access to resources through their parents,” said Perna.

Perna called for the need for more support and resources for first-generation college students.

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