Persistence and Attainment
The second follow-up of students who began their postsecondary education in 1989–90 provides an opportunity to examine persistence and degree attainment after approximately 5 years, by which time rates of attainment for a bachelor’s degree become meaningful.
Overall, half of all 1989–90 beginning postsecondary students had earned some type of degree by 1994. Another 13 percent were still enrolled, and the remaining 37 percent had left without attaining and were not enrolled in 1994 (Nuñez and Cuccaro-Alamin 1998). First-generation students were less likely than other students to have earned a bachelor’s degree (13 versus 33 percent), about as likely to have earned an associate’s degree (13 and 14 percent, respectively), and more likely to have earned a vocational certificate (18 versus 9 percent). First-generation students were also more likely than others to have left without a degree (45 versus 29 percent).
Multivariate analysis confirms that, among those who intended to earn a degree or certificate, first-generation students were less likely to reach their goals even after controlling for other factors also related to persistence and attainment, including socioeconomic status, age, enrollment status, sex, race/ethnicity, type of institution, and academic and social integration. In other words, first-generation status appears to be a disadvantage throughout postsecondary education that is independent of other background and enrollment factors. For this cohort, information on their financial aid history and high school coursetaking is not available. Thus their effects on persistence cannot be determined.