PEDAR: Executive Summary First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education: A Look at Their College Transcripts
First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education: A Brief Portrait
Remedial Coursetaking
Undergraduate Major
Credits Earned
Coursetaking in Selected Areas
Postsecondary Performance
Factors Related to Degree Completion and Persistence
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Factors Related to Degree Completion and Persistance

First-generation students were less likely than students with college-educated parents to earn a bachelor’s degree even after taking into account many related factors, including students’ demographic backgrounds, academic preparation, enrollment characteristics, credit production, and performance (table 15). This difference was observed even among students who attended a 4-year institution with the intention of earning a bachelor’s degree.

When the analysis included persistence as the outcome, before taking into account related variables, first-generation students were less likely than their peers whose parents attended college to persist in postsecondary education (i.e., they were less likely to earn any postsecondary credential or to be still enrolled as of 2000) (table 16). However, unlike the results for bachelor’s degree attainment, the difference in persistence disappeared after controlling for related factors. This finding differs from those of earlier studies, which found that first-generation students were less likely than other students to persist (e.g., Nuñez and Cuccaro-Alamin 1998; Warburton, Bugarin, and Nuñez 2001). The reason for the change in results between the earlier studies and the current study may in part be due to the additional postsecondary coursetaking and performance variables introduced in the current analysis. These variables were not available for analysis in the previous studies and therefore, were not controlled for.

Finally, this analysis demonstrated important associations between early credit production and academic performance and students’ success in postsecondary education. More credits completed and higher grades earned in the first year, and fewer withdrawn or repeated courses throughout enrollment were strongly associated with postsecondary degree attainment and persistence.

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