The findings from this analysis indicate that students who were well prepared for postsecondary education were very likely to persist in 4-year institutions. Students who took rigorous coursework in high school accounted for more than 80 percent of those students who either stayed on the persistence track to a bachelor's degree or were retained at their initial institution. At the same time, parents' levels of education were found to be associated with rates of students' retention and persistence in college, even when controlling for measures of academic preparedness (such as rigor of secondary curriculum and college entrance examination scores).
These findings hold true even when other related variables are held constant. That is, even after controlling for variables such as academic preparation and postsecondary achievement, parents' education continued to be a significant factor in determining whether students persisted, were enrolled at their initial institution 3 years after entering, or stayed on the persistence track. Students whose parents attained a bachelor's degree were more likely than first-generation students to remain enrolled at their initial 4-year institution. Likewise, after controlling for related variables, students whose parents attained a bachelor's degree or higher were more likely to stay on the persistence track to a bachelor's degree than first-generation students.
At the same time, after holding all other variables constant, students who took rigorous coursework in high school significantly increased their chances of staying on the persistence track to a bachelor's degree. Taken together, these results suggest that, while first-generation status is an important predictor of success in postsecondary education, rigorous preparation in high school substantially narrows the gap in postsecondary outcomes between first-generation students and their peers whose parents graduated from college.