A Typology of Supports for First Generation College Students in the U.S.: The Role of Leadership and Collaboration

A Typology of Supports for First Generation College Students in the U.S.: The Role of Leadership and Collaboration

Brooke Midkiff, Leslie Grinage
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0672-0.ch014
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First generation college students, students who are the first in their families to enroll in college, are a unique group, in that their parents' level of education in addition to their race, gender, or socioeconomic status, is an indicator of persistence to degree completion. While colleges and universities have historically created programs to assist this group, those initiatives have ranged in purpose, level of institutional and/or government support, and intended audience. This chapter develops a typology of the support programs that currently exist to serve first generation college students attending four-year colleges and universities in the United States. It begins by exploring the academic and financial challenges many first generation college students face, and concludes by offering recommendations that institutional policymakers can implement to expand the possibilities for improving the success of this distinctive group of students.
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This vignette, taken from an opinion article in the New York Times printed in 2015, offers an introduction to the experiences of first generation college students. This personal story offers a direct insight into the special challenges that first generation college students face. Discussion of these challenges is provided in context with this vignette immediately preceding it.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cultural Capital: Non-financial social assets that promote social mobility including education, intellect, style of speech, dress, or physical appearance.

NAEP: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); a nationally representative standardized achievement test given in the U.S.

HEOP: Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) of New York state; designed to to meet the needs of disadvantaged students studying at independent (private) postsecondary institutions.

College Readiness: How “ready” a given student is to start college in terms of characteristics associated with successful transitions to college in addition to academic factors ; can include skills ranging from financial literacy and support, openness to new concepts, cultures, and people, personal grit and beliefs about one’s own college readiness, maturity and the emotional security to participate in the re-examination of one’s self, society, and one’s place in it, etc.

TRIO: United States Department of Education program designed to increase access to postsecondary education among disadvantaged students, as defined by socio-economic status and racial or ethnic minority status; TRIO is not an acronym and originated as a way to reference the three original programs funded through this program.

Social Reproduction: Structures and activities that transmit social inequality from one generation to the next; for Pierre Bourdieu, education often works to effectuate social reproduction rather than as a democratic equalizer.

GEAR UP: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), federally funded grant program whose objective is to, “to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education” works with entire cohorts of students, starting no later than seventh grade to prepare them for college.

Systematic Review: Method of research synthesis wherein the researcher systematically and comprehensively searches the extant literature around a topic and synthesizes it; may or may not include a meta-analysis of effect sizes.

Habitus: Concept developed by Pierre Bourdieu; one’s cultural habitat that becomes internalized in the form of dispositions to act, think, and feel in certain ways, acquired through one’s acculturation into certain social groups such as social class, gender, family, peer group, or even nationality.

Academic Preparedness: How “ready” a given student is to engage in postsecondary curriculum upon enrolling.

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