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ERIC Number: ED531902
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 266
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1094-8432-8
Purposeful Persistence: First Generation College Student Success
Belcastro, Amy Terece
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Davis
Undergraduate populations at colleges and universities have become increasingly diverse in recent years, and one of the greatest shifts has been the steadily increasing numbers of first generation college students (FGCS), students whose parents did not attend college. Studies of FGCS have concluded that retention is less likely for FGCS than continuing generation college students (CGCS). According to the literature, FGCS are more likely to be academically under prepared, come from low income and minority backgrounds, and be less engaged in the college experience than CGCS. In exercising this attention, many colleges and universities have developed retention strategies focusing on characteristics of FGCS that might put them at risk for not completing a degree. Initially, these contrasts between FGCS and CGCS were regarded widely as deficits of the first-generation population. In recent years, however, some institutions of higher education have shifted in their approach from an "individual deficit model" focused on the shortcomings of individual students to a deeper understanding of how institutional conditions encourage or discourage students from staying in school. This evolving emphasis includes a shift in responsibility for students' college going success--from the individual to the institution. These contrasting and evolving ideas present a complex but incomplete picture of how colleges work or do not work for first-generation college students. This study explored the characteristics and perspectives of FGCS and the institutional conditions, policies and practices affecting first year persistence at a low persisting rural four-year university. I examined three broad questions: What are the critical characteristics of FGCS who persist past their first year at the University? What implications do these characteristics have for retaining FGCS beyond the first year of college at the institution? What implications do these attributes hold for other colleges and universities seeking to retain FGCS? Confounding results were found after analyzing demographic and academic data on FGCS; although similar to other FGCS in terms of at-risk characteristics, they were out-persisting and performing their CGCS peers. In order to understand this counterintuitive finding, institutional policies and practices were explored, and focus groups were conducted investigating the perceptions of FGCS towards college persistence. The findings suggest that the restricted focus on external attributes of students fall short in explaining FGCS persistence. This study illustrates that institutions of higher education can better support first generation college students if they make available the freedom for individuals to develop naturally, learn through experience, and engage in the formation of their purpose (based on Dewey's 1938 work). It is up to leaders in institutions of higher education and researchers to extend the focus and support beyond external attributes of first generation students and include a focus on internal characteristics, providing a more complete picture of how colleges work or do not work for them. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A