This report examines the high school preparation and postsecondary persistence of first-generation studentsthose students whose parents had no education beyond high schooland compares them with students whose parents went to college. Previous research has demonstrated that first-generation students exhibit different college enrollment and persistence behaviors than their counterparts whose parents have more education. Such studies found that first-generation students were less likely than their peers to complete advanced mathematics classes in high school. Even among those qualified for college, first-generation students were less likely to enroll in 4-year institutions (Horn and Nuñez 2000). Independent of other relevant demographic, enrollment, and college involvement factors, first-generation status was also found to be negatively associated with students' persistence and attainment (Nuñez and Cuccaro-Alamin 1998).
What has not been well understood, however, is the extent to which the academic preparation of first-generation students in high school affects their persistence and attainment in postsecondary education. The purpose of this report is to examine whether first-generation students who were otherwise equally prepared academically were comparable to students whose parents went to college in terms of their grade-point averages (GPAs), number of remedial courses in postsecondary education, and rates of persistence (that is, whether they were retained at their first institution, had stayed on a persistence track toward the bachelor's degree,1 or had attained a degree). This analysis focuses on a subset of 199596 beginning postsecondary students who started their postsecondary education in 4-year institutions.
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