The Impact of Generational Group Differences and Financial Aid on Learner's Sustained Learning

The Impact of Generational Group Differences and Financial Aid on Learner's Sustained Learning

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2271-3.ch007
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Students who are the first in a family to attend college are at a disadvantage compared with students whose parents have at least four-year college degrees. Consequently, the rates of persistence, attainment and sustained learning for these students are significantly lower. This Chapter presents results of an empirical study that examined the effect generation group differences and financial aid has on sustained learning. The is aimed at reinforcing the fact that sustained learning is a multifaceted factor that is influenced by several variables. In the example used, a factorial research was employed as a framework for data analysis. The sample consisted of 835 students from one large Southern public university. A two-factor ANOVA analysis revealed that GPA was statistically significant among students of different generational groups (using mother’s level of education), F (2, 810) = 3.56, p =.029. Further, GPA was also statistically significant for students who received college financial support as compared to those who did not, F (1, 810) = 6.15, p =.013. There was no significant interaction effect between generation categories and college financial support when father’s level of education was used, F (2, 826) = 2.71, p = .067.

First generation college students (FGCS) are at a disadvantage compared with students who come from educated families (parents have at least a four-year college degree) referred here as continuing education college students (CECS). Although colleges and universities have developed various programs and policies to offset some of the disparities and to provide additional support for these students, FGCS continue to experience sustained learning at college and attain four-year degrees at significantly lower rates than students whose parents are more educated (Choy, 2001).

Indeed, the most obvious disadvantage of first generation status is that these students have parents without any college experience and thus the lack of immediate role models (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2004; Thayer, 2000). Consequently, FGCS are often inadequately prepared for the demanding academic work, sustained learning and college student life. For CECS, parents are a source of guidance and support because they can provide information about the college experience, such as what the academic expectations are and how institutions of higher learning operate. For CECS, the worlds of home and school are usually quite compatible for sustained learning, but FGCS must learn to balance a life at home and a life at school that is often quite different (Somers, Woodhouse, & Cofer, 2004).

Research has shown other differences between these two groups of learners such as race, gender, and social inequities indicating that FGCS are disproportionately non-white, female, and are often from families of lower socioeconomic status as compared with CECS (Bui, 2002; Choy, 2001; Choy, Horn, Nunez, & Chen, 2000; Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005). Further, students of first generation status are often less prepared academically, have lower degree aspirations, and are more likely to follow a course that increases the risk of failure to persist and attain (Cabrera, Burkham, & LaNasa, 2001; Choy et al., 2000). Students whose parents have attended college often have the advantage of higher incomes, higher grade point averages, and higher college entrance exam scores (Somers, Woodhouse, & Cofer, 2004).

Yet, despite these disparities, the outcomes for students who persist and attain are quite positive (Choy, 2001). That is, generational status is not a disadvantage after graduation, given that FGCS and CECS are employed and earning equal salaries. Thus, researchers emphasize that it is critical that disadvantaged students are targeted early, possibly as early as the eighth grade, to be certain that these students are adequately prepared for the college experience (Cabrera, Burkham, & LaNasa, 2001; Choy, Horn, Nunez, & Chen, 2000).

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