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PEDAR: Executive Summary Bridging the Gap
High School Coursetaking
Effects of First-Generation Status
Preparation for Postsecondary Education
Postsecondary Enrollment and Performance
Postsecondary Persistence and Attainment
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)

This report examines the high school preparation and postsecondary persistence of first-generation students—those students whose parents had no education beyond high school—and 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 1995–96 beginning postsecondary students who started their postsecondary education in 4-year institutions.

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