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A Guide to the Research: Incentives / Motivation / Funding

Presents research literature and other sources of information about first generation college students, focusing on four-year undergraduate and graduate school experiences.


* Aspelmeier, Jeffery E., Michael M. Love, Lauren A. McGill, Ann N. Elliott and Thomas W. Pierce. "Self-Esteem, Locus of Control, College Adjustment, and GPA Among First- and Continuing-Generation Students: A Moderator Model of Generational Status," Research in Higher Education, vol. 53, issue 7 (Nov 2012), pp. 755-781.
The role of generational status (first-generation vs. continuing-generation college students) as a moderator of the relationship between psychological factors and college outcomes was tested to determine whether generational status acts as a risk factor or as a sensitizing factor. Generational status significantly moderated the relationship between psychological factors and academic outcomes. Generally, it was found that the relationship between psychological factors and academic outcomes were strongest among first-generation students. Further, it was found that for the majority of the interactions with locus of control, first-generation status acted as a sensitizing factor that amplified both the positive and negative effects of locus of control. In contrast, for self-esteem, first generation status acted as a risk factor that only exacerbated the negative effects of low self-esteem.

* Burdman, Pamela, The Student Debt Dilemma: Debt Aversion as A Barrier to College Access, 2005. Research & Occasional Paper Series: CSHE.13.05 
Though the rise in college student debt often has been blamed on rising tuition, a radical shift in student financial aid--from a system relying primarily on need-based grants to one dominated by loans--has been equally important. Numerous reports have highlighted the burdens faced by students who borrow large sums, but less is known about students who are averse to borrowing. For these students, the increasing prominence of loans could actually narrow their options and decrease their chances of attending and completing college. This paper recommends four broad strategies: (1) making more grant money available for low-income and first-generation students, (2) making loan programs more attractive and efficient through income-based repayment strategies, (3) better integrating financial aid awareness into high school counseling, and (4) providing more pathways for students who prefer to attend part-time.

* Carey, Kevin, Graduation Rate Watch: Making Minority Student Success a Priority, Education Sector. 36 pp.
College graduation rates for minority students are often shockingly low. Most institutions have significantly lower graduation rates for black students than for white students. This report demonstrates that these high-failure rates are not inevitable: Some institutions are graduating black students at a higher rate than white students. The report describes a comprehension program developed at Florida State University in 2000 called CARE (Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement) that helps low-income, first-generation college students succeed. Its overall philosophy is to identify every piece of information students might need or stumbling block they might encounter and help them through. The report finds that what distinguishes colleges and universities that have truly made a difference on behalf of minority students is that they pay attention to graduation rates. They monitor year-to-year change, study the impact of different interventions on student outcomes, break down the numbers among different student populations, and continuously ask themselves how they could improve. The report observes that the current system of incentives, which provides too few reasons to improve college graduation rates, is comprised of a series of interlocking funding systems, governmental relationships, and market forces that combine to give institutional leaders powerful incentives to make certain kinds of decisions and not make others. The report explains how those systems work and makes the following recommendations on how they could be changed: (1) change the rankings; (2) improve graduation rate measures; (3) improve state accountability systems; (4) change funding incentives; (5) improve accreditation; and (6) move back to need-based financial aid. Appended to this document are: (1) Four-Year Colleges and Universities with Small or Nonexistent Black/White Six-Year Graduation Rate Gaps, 2001-2006; and (2) Four-Year Colleges and Universities With Large Black/White Six-Year Graduation Rate Gaps, 2001-2006. (Contains 4 tables and 27 endnotes.)
* Conrad, Sarah, et al. What Attracts High-Achieving, Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students to the Physical Sciences and Engineering? College Student Journal vol. 43, issue 4 (December 2009), pp. 1359-69.
Socioeconomically disadvantaged (SED) students are less likely to major in physical sciences or engineering. To guide recruitment and retention of a diversity of talent, this study examined what attracts high-achieving SED students to these fields. Participants were 50 undergraduates majoring in physical sciences or engineering enrolled in the McNair mentoring program. Ninety-two percent were first-generation in college and/or low-income: 56[percent] were female, 40[percent] Hispanic, and 36[percent] White. This group of SED students mostly explained their attraction to physical sciences or engineering in terms of scientific curiosity and a passion for research. They also reported being excited about the possibility to use their science and engineering education for social purposes. Securing a good job emerged as another important motivator, particularly for male and ethnic minority respondents. These findings suggest common as well as unique reasons for majoring in physical sciences or engineering among a diversity of SED students.

* Dennis, Jessica M., Jean S. Phinney, and Lizette Ivy Chuateco. The Role of Motivation, Parental Support, and Peer Support in the Academic Success of Ethnic Minority First-Generation College Students. Journal of College Student Development, vol. 46, issue 3 (May-Jun 2005), p223-236.
The role of personal motivational characteristics and environmental social supports in college outcomes was examined in a longitudinal study of 100 ethnic minority first-generation college students. Personal/career-related motivation to attend college in the fall was a positive predictor and lack of peer support was a negative predictor of college adjustment the following spring. Lack of peer support also predicted lower spring GPA.

* Ishiyama, John T. and Valerie M. Hopkins. Assessing the Impact of a Graduate School Preparation Program on First-Generation, Low-Income College Students at a Public Liberal Arts University. Journal of College Student Retention, vol. 4, issue 4 (2002-2003), pp. 393-405.
Assessed the performance of a federal program designed to serve first-generation, low-income (FGLI) college students--the Ronald E. McNair Program. Using data from a Midwestern liberal arts university, found that FGLI program participants are far more likely to be retained to the university and successful in terms of timely graduation and placement into graduate school than FGLI non-participants, even when controlling for academic ability and ambition.

* Longwell-Grice, Robert. Get a Job: Working Class Students Discuss the Purpose of College. College Student Affairs Journal, vol. 23, issue 1 (Fall 2003), pp. 40-53.
Presents a case study of four, first-generation, working-class White male freshmen who discuss their perceptions of the purpose of college. Perceptions are analyzed using Chickering's sixth vector, Developing Purpose. Data indicate the students consider college to be primarily a place that prepares them for work, supporting Chickering and Reisser's argument that this is the case for large numbers of students.

* Lumina Foundation for Education. Calculating Cost-Return for Investments in Student Success, 2010.
In late 2007, Jobs for the Future (JFF), working with the Delta Project on Postsecondary Costs, Productivity and Accountability, launched "Investing in Student Success", a one-year pilot program. The pilot, conceived of as part of the "Making Opportunity Affordable" initiative and funded by Walmart Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education, focused on exploring whether first-year programs designed to retain students are a cost-effective investment for colleges and universities. JFF and the Delta Project recruited 13 colleges and universities to participate in Investing in Student Success. Each institution had student success programs considered effective at serving freshman students, especially low-income, first-generation, at-risk college students. The project's goal was to develop, test, and standardize tools that document the relationship between program costs and student results. The feature product of the pilot is the ISS Cost-Return Calculator, a tool that can help campus and program administrators compare the costs of student success programs to the programs' impact on student retention.

* Martinez, Edward F., Dolores C. Bilges, Sherrille T. Shabazz, Rhoda Miller, and Elsa-Sofia Morote. To Work or Not to Work: Student Employment, Resiliency, and Institutional Engagement of Low-Income, First-Generation College Students, Journal of Student Financial Aid, vol. 42, issue 1 (2012), pp. 28-39.
This exploratory study examines the difference between two college persistence factors--resiliency and institutional engagement--for low-income, working, first-generation college students. Participants in the study consisted of 52 respondents to the Family History Knowledge and College Persistence Survey. Among respondents, 50 students reported participating in some form of employment, with 9 students in work-study, 22 students in off-campus employment, and 19 students in both work-study and off-campus employment. Data analysis shows a significant relationship between resiliency and employment type, but no significant relationship between institutional engagement and employment type. Our findings indicate students who balance academics and employment exhibit a higher resiliency toward attaining graduation. (Contains 3 tables.)

* Prospero, Moises, Catherine Russell, and Shetal Vohra-Gupta. Effects of Motivation on Educational Attainment: Ethnic and Developmental Differences among First-Generation Students, Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, vol. 11, issue 1 (Jan 2012),  pp. 100-119. Requires Interlibrary Loan.
This study investigated differences in educational motivation among Hispanic and non-Hispanic first-generation students (FGS). Participants were 315 high school and college students who completed a revised academic motivation survey that measured participants' educational motivation (intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and amotivation). The study found that extrinsic and amotivation were significant predictors of grade point averages (GPAs) among FGS. In addition, high school FGS and Hispanic students were more likely to report higher intrinsic motivation than college FGS and non-Hispanic students. Implications for higher education are discussed. (Contains 5 tables.)

* Prospero, Moises and Shetal Vohra-Gupta, First Generation College Students: Motivation, Integration, and Academic Achievement, Community College Journal of Research and Practice, vol. 31, issue 12 (Dec 2007), pp. 963-975. Requires Interlibrary Loan.
The study reported in this article investigated motivation and integration dimensions that influence college academic achievement of first-generation students compared to nonfirst-generation students. Participants consisted of 277 ethnically diverse students who were attending a community college. Bivariate and multivariate statistical analyses revealed that motivation and integration dimensions contributed significantly to academic achievement for first-generation students, but not for nonfirst-generation students. Specifically, among first-generation students, academic integration contributed to higher grade point averages while extrinsic motivation and amotivation contributed significantly to lower grades. Implications of these finding and recommendations are discussed. (Contains 5 tables.)

* Rodriguez, Sandria. What Helps Some First-Generation Students Succeed? About Campus, vol. 8, issue 4 (Sep-Oct 2003), pp. 17-22.
A fair amount is known about what first-generation students need to succeed, but some mysteries remain. The author's research provides some insight on why certain students make it and others do not.

* Shellenbarger, Lauren, Ed.D. An evaluation of College Goal Sunday Arizona. Northern Arizona University, 2009, 189 pp.
The cost of education and the amount of financial aid students receive could have an impact on choice of college and ultimately whether students will attend higher education. College Goal Sunday is a national outreach program designed to educate parents and students of color, low-income and first-generation status on the process of applying for financial aid. The program also provides an opportunity for students and their parents to complete the financial aid application on-site. This multimethod, evaluation study investigated the impact of attendance at College Goal Sunday 2008 in Arizona on students' understanding of the financial aid process and subsequent successful completion of the financial aid application as well as student perceptions of the impact of financial aid on perceived ability to attend college of choice. In addition, analysis of first-generation status was completed to determine if perceptions and impacts differed for first-generation students as compared to non first-generation students. Ethnicity was considered to determine if there was a difference in perception and impact among students of different ethnic backgrounds. A total of 1001 surveys were collected from student participants at College Goal Sunday Arizona in 2008. The records of 59 student participants were matched against Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) records to determine completion of FAFSA. A follow-up phone survey was conducted with a sample of 20 attendees to understand student perception of impact of the event. The importance of financial aid was also evaluated in the written and follow-up phone survey. College Goal Sunday had a positive impact on students' understanding of the financial aid process as well as completion of the financial aid process. No statistically significant difference was found comparing first-generation and non first-generation students nor for students of different ethnic/racial backgrounds. Even though the majority of the survey respondents indicated they would attend college regardless of receipt of financial aid, most students suggested they could not attend their college of choice without funding. This study supports the need for high schools, colleges, the government and the community at large to disseminate financial aid information to ensure all potential college students the opportunity to attend higher education.

* Stuart, Reginald, "Disproportionately Influential?" [Lumina Foundation], Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, vol. 27, issue 12 (Aug 2010), pp. 16-17.
This article discusses why the Lumina Foundation is considered so influential in higher education despite its small size and the fact that is is a relatively new foundation. Lumina approaches its 10th anniversary this month with a focused higher education funding mission targeting efforts aimed at expanding access and success beyond high school, "particularly among adults, first-generation college-going students, low-income students and student of color." It is the only foundation in the nation touting this as its central mission. Lumina's financial size as one of the 30 largest foundations in the nation and its aggressive push of its 2025 program have made the Indianapolis-based foundation the buzz of the higher education community. Still, it is a smaller being among the cluster of the nation's bigger and much older foundations, and some marvel that this midget among giants is moving like an 800-pound gorilla. Dr. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the UNCF, said that right now Lumina Foundation is being disproportionately influential, crediting Lumina for having a much larger impact on the debate about how to improve higher education than its financial size would suggest it could.

* Supiano, Beckie. An Entrepreneur Backs First-Generation College Students, The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 57, issue 5 (September 24, 2010), p. 1.
The article discusses businessman Eric Suder, who had created a foundation to help first-generation college students to pay for school. Suder endowed a scholarship for such students at West Virginia University, which selects recipients from the university's Student Support Services program. Suder's scholarship program is in place at the University of Kentucky and the University of Utah, which are test cases. Suder hopes that the program will be successful and will be adopted by other schools across the U.S.

* Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. First Generation College Student Initiatives: A Report on the Initial Phase of the First Generation College Student Grants Program, Fiscal Year 2004.
In May 2002, Governor Rick Perry announced plans for several higher education initiatives, including the recruitment, preparation, enrollment, and retention of first generation college students. First generation college students are students who would be the first in their families to complete higher education through two- and four-year postsecondary institutions. During 2003, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and the Coordinating Board (THECB) worked together to develop and implement plans to address the First Generation Initiatives set forth by the Governor's office. The joint plans include complementary and supportive structures necessary for first generation, low-income students to succeed in high school and college. The joint plans also include collaboration between institutions of higher education, public school districts, and local Workforce Development Boards, to maximize student success. Appended are: (1) 2003-2004 First Generation Grant College Student Grant Program Awards; and (2) College for Texans Campaign Activities by ESC Region.

* Vuong, Mui, Sharon Brown-Welty and Susan Tracz. The Effects of Self-Efficacy on Academic Success of First-Generation College Sophomore Students. Journal of College Student Development, vol. 51, issue 1 (Jan-Feb 2010), pp. 50-64.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the effects of self-efficacy on academic success of first-generation college sophomore students. The participants in the study consisted of college sophomores from 5 of the 23 California State University campuses. An online College Self-Efficacy Inventory was employed to measure participants' self-efficacy levels. The study explored four areas: the relationship between self-efficacy scores and academic success as defined by GPA and persistence rates, the academic success and persistence rates between first-generation and second-and-beyond-generation college sophomore students, the effects of the demographic factors of gender and ethnicity on self-efficacy, and the relationship between institution size and self-efficacy. Findings show that self-efficacy beliefs affect GPA and persistence rates of sophomore students and second-generation college sophomores outperform their first-generation peers.