Monday, June 16, 2008

Low-Income/First-Generation Students and Dropping Out

Inside Higher Ed does a good job of analyzing the correlation of first generation and lower income college students with the "drop out" rate. The dropping out in this case means that the majority of students that start at a public two-year or a private university never end up earning the bachelor's degree they set out to earn.

Students who are both low income and first generation are far less likely than their peers to transfer from two-year to four-year colleges; six years after starting at public two-year or for-profit colleges, only 26 percent of low-income, first generation students have transferred, compared to about 40 percent of those who are either first generation or low income and 62 percent of students who are neither.

And first-generation, low-income students are one fifth as likely — 11 percent compared to 55 percent — to have earned a bachelor’s degree after six years as are students who are neither low income nor first generation.

“For too many low-income, first-generation students, the newly opened door to American higher education has been a revolving one,” said Vincent Tinto, a Pell Institute Senior Scholar and distinguished professor of higher education at Syracuse University, who worked with Engle on the new data.
The sources to the problem are multifaceted. One of the problems is that students often aren't prepared for a college-level workload once they're recruited. This suggests problematic high school (and even further back) preparation. Furthermore, a myriad of financial aid and "unmet financial need" issues than second generation or middle class students. Let's not forget that applying for federal student aid is a long and massively confusing form for anyone, especially for someone who is the first in their family to go through the process.

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