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1 DO PARENTS MATTER ? EXAMINING THE ROLE OF PARENTAL INFLUENCES ON THE DEGREE ASPIRATIONS OF FIRST GENERATION STUDENTS By JENNIFER SOKAS CORTES A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012
2 2012 Jennifer Sokas Cortes
3 To my father, Michael J. Sokas, and my sister, Michelle L. Sokas. Dad, thank you for your unconditional love and constant support of my educational pursuits. This dissertation is a testament to your guidance throughout my life. Michelle, not a day goes by that I do not think of your beautiful smile and contagious laug h. Thank you for sharing with me your love of life. I only wish both of you could still be here with me today to celebrate, but I know you are celebrating in Heaven and continue to act as my guardian angels. I love you!
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First, I would like to formally thank my advisor and chair of my dissertation, Dr. Luis Ponjuan. Thank you for your support and dedication to my development as a scholar and researcher over the past several years. As a result of our ting sessions, I am leaving this program confident in my abilities as I start my professional career in institutional research. I will forever be grateful for the skills you taught me and the knowledge you instilled in me. I wish you, Lurel, and Davis all the best as you begin an exciting journey. Next, I would like to thank my dissertation committee members: Drs. Pilar Mendoza, Walter Leite, and Michael Scicchitano. Thank you for your support and guidance from the early stages of my qualifying exam to t he completion of this dissertation. Additionally, the knowledge I gained in my classes from each of you has allowed me to develop into an informed researcher and also provide me with a strong foundation to be successful in my future endeavors. Throughou t the last several years I had the opportunity to call the University of Florida home, as both a staff member and student. I am thankful for the many friends, colleagues, and classmates that have supported me throughout my doctoral education. In particul ar, I am thankful for the ladies of 1215 Norman Hall for their ability to answer any question I posed to them. Additionally, my friends and classmates have been readily available to provide input, guidance, and support when I needed it. I am especially g already be working in institutional research. Thank you to the Office of
5 Institutional Planning and Research for providing me with this opportunity a nd supporting me during the final months of my dissertation process. I am blessed to come from a family that constantly supports me and shows me unconditional love. I am grateful for the encouragement of my mother that she provided throughout my educati onal journey, even when it took me a thousand miles away. I am thankful for the strength my mother provided following the passing of my sister, Michelle. Her strength, combined with the love of my sisters and grandparents, helped me accept the passing of my sister but also remember that Michelle will always be a part of our lives. I would also like to thank my grandparents for their unending love and support. They have shown me the true meaning of love and I am forever grateful for having you support me throughout my life. I am blessed to be the youngest of four girls and am grateful for the love my sisters have shown me throughout my life. Anne Marie, thank you for your uncanny ability to remember stories from when we were children and sharing them wh en we are together. Mary Beth, thank you for sharing my love of education and for acting as a confidant, best friend, and role model from our days of sharing a room to now seeing our children grow up together, I feel so blessed to call you my sister. I would also like to thank my brother in law, Dan, for helping me keep things in perspective and always having a joke to share. Finally, I would like to thank my in laws, Doris and Jose, for welcoming me into the Cortes family and for their constant suppor t and love of David and me. This journey would not have been possible without the love and encouragement of my best friend, life partner, and husband David. Thank you
6 for your absolute backing from my first day as a doctoral student to the conclusion of my dissertation defense. Your perpetual support of my goal to finish my degree was selfless and I will forever be grateful. Thank you for reminding me to laugh, even when it felt like I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel so blesse d to have you stand beside me as my husband and I look forward to our future together. I will never be able to express to you how appreciative I am for all that you have done for us, especially over these last several months after we welcomed our daughter Raegan, into our family. Raegan, from the moment I met you I loved you so deeply. Thank you for acting as my motivation to finish this degree and for reminding me how incredible a simple smile and little laugh truly can be.
7 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 10 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 12 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 13 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 15 Purpose of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 18 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ 19 Rationale for the Study ................................ ................................ ............................ 20 Scope of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 25 Significance of Study ................................ ................................ ............................... 26 Chapte r Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 27 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ ........................... 29 Definition of Key Terms ................................ ................................ ........................... 30 First generation Students ................................ ................................ ........................ 31 Educational Aspirations ................................ ................................ ..................... 35 Firs t Education ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 37 Pre postsecondary Academic Experiences ................................ ....................... 38 College Knowledge ................................ ................................ ........................... 40 Postsecondary Institution Enrollment Patterns ................................ .................. 41 ................................ ................... 42 Parental Influences ................................ ................................ ........................... 43 Parent Influences Specific to First generation Students ................................ ... 45 High School Context ................................ ................................ ......................... 47 Teachers and Counselors ................................ ................................ ................. 48 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ............................ 48 Review of Previous College Choice Models ................................ ...................... 49 College Choice ................................ ................................ .............................. 52 Economical approach ................................ ................................ ................. 52 Sociological approach ................................ ................................ ................. 53 ................................ ............... 54 Layer one ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 56 Layer two ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 57 Layer three ................................ ................................ ................................ 57
8 Layer four ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 58 Application of Model to Current Study ................................ ............................... 58 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 60 3 METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 64 Proposed Hypotheses ................................ ................................ ............................. 65 Data Source ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 66 Sampling Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 68 Data Sample ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 69 Dependent Variables ................................ ................................ ............................... 71 Independent Variables ................................ ................................ ............................. 72 Layer One: Individual Habitus ................................ ................................ .......... 73 Demographic characteristics ................................ ................................ ...... 73 Cultural cap ital ................................ ................................ ............................ 74 Social capital ................................ ................................ .............................. 76 Layer Two: School and Community Context ................................ .................... 77 Cross tabulations of Selected Independent Variables ................................ ....... 78 Methodological Considerations ................................ ................................ ............... 79 Analytical Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 80 Regression Diagnostics ................................ ................................ ........................... 85 Limita tions of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ 85 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 87 4 RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 96 Preliminary Data Analyses ................................ ................................ ...................... 96 De .............. 97 Race/ethnicity ................................ ................................ ............................. 97 Family income ................................ ................................ ............................ 97 Parental involvement ................................ ................................ .................. 98 Dependent Variable 2: Degree Aspirations ................................ ...................... 98 Race/ethnicity ................................ ................................ ............................. 99 Family income ................................ ................................ ............................ 99 Parental involvement ................................ ................................ ................ 100 Advanced Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ........................ 100 Mode ............ 101 ................................ ..................... 103 Comparison I: Comparison between students not sure about future plans beyond high school and students planning to pursue a college education ................................ ................................ .... 104 Comparison II: Comparison between first generation ninth grade students interested in only a high school diploma and students planning to pursue college education ................................ .................... 106
9 Comparison III: Comparison between first generation ninth grade students interested in o nly a high school diploma and students who are not sure about future degree plans beyond high school ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 107 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ 108 5 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 117 Summary of Study Contributions ................................ ................................ ........... 117 Review of Purpose and Research Questions ................................ ........................ 118 Summary of Research Findings ................................ ................................ ............ 119 Demographic Characteristics ................................ ................................ .......... 120 Cultural Capital ................................ ................................ ............................... 125 Social Capital ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 128 School Conte xt ................................ ................................ ................................ 133 Final Reflection of Findings ................................ ................................ ................... 136 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ 139 6 IMPLICATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH ................................ ........................ 141 Implications for Policy and Institutional Practice ................................ .................... 142 Policy Recommendations ................................ ................................ ................ 144 Institutional Practices ................................ ................................ ...................... 148 Future Research ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 154 School Context ................................ ................................ ................................ 154 Parent Invol vement ................................ ................................ ......................... 156 Methodological Modifications ................................ ................................ .......... 158 Closing Words ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 1 59 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 161 BIOGRAPHICAL SKE TCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 172
10 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3 1 Frequency of gender (n=7018) ................................ ................................ ........... 89 3 2 Frequency of race/ethnicity (n=7018) ................................ ................................ 89 3 3 Frequency of native language (n=7014) ................................ ............................. 89 3 4 Frequency of family income levels (n=7018) ................................ ...................... 89 3 5 Summar y of dependent variables ................................ ................................ ....... 89 3 6 .............. 89 3 7 ................................ ...................... 90 3 8 Summary of independent variables and indices ................................ ................. 90 3 9 Cross tabulations of family income and parent involv ement ............................... 91 3 10 Cross tabulations of family income and race/ethnicity ................................ ........ 92 3 11 Cross tabulations of parent involvement and Race/ethnicity .............................. 93 3 12 Summary of multivariate log istic regression models ................................ ........... 94 4 1 ............... 110 4 2 .............. 110 4 3 ... 111 4 4 Frequencies of race/ethnicity and degree aspirations ................................ ...... 111 4 5 Frequencies of family income and degree aspirations ................................ ...... 112 4 6 Frequencies of parent involvement and degree aspirations ............................. 112 4 7 Results for binary logistic multivariate regression model for the certainty of ................................ ................................ ........ 113 4 8 Results for multinomial logistic multivariate regression model comparing aspirations for not sure against pursuing some type of college degree ............ 114 4 9 Results for multinomial logistic multivariate regression model comparing aspirations for pursuing high school against pursuing some type of college degree ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 115
11 4 10 Results for multinomial logistic multivariate regression model comparing aspirations for pursuing high school against n ot sure about future degree aspirations ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 116
12 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 proposed conceptual model of college choice ................................ ....... 62 2 2 ........................ 63 3 1 ........................ 95
13 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy DO PARENTS MATTER ? EXAMINING THE ROLE OF PARENTAL INFLUENCES ON THE DEGREE ASPIRATIONS OF FIRST GENERATION STUDENTS By Jennifer Sokas Cortes August 2012 Chair: Luis Ponjuan Major: Higher Education Administration This study investigated the role of parent involvement on the degree aspirations generation students. The data source for this study was the High School Longitudinal Study of 2008 administered by the National Center f or Education Statistics which provided An adapted model of was used as the theoretical framework for this study Descriptive statistics cross tabulations and multivariate regression techniques were utilized to examine individual factors associated with first degree aspirations and confidence in completing a bachelor natio nally representative sample. The results suggest that particular student demographic cultural capital, social capital, and school context variables influenced first degree. Namely, Black/African American students are more like ly to be certain to college, have parents who do not have information about college, come from a family
14 ea rning a low income, and attend a high school without a counselor focused on college women are more likely to indicate a preference to earn a college degree, while American Indi an students, students who ha ve no discussions with others about college, and students from a family ear n ing a low income are more likely to indicate a preference to earn only a high school diploma. Finding s from this study highlight that the first generation student population is not a monolithic group but rather a heterogeneous population. Researchers and administrators must recognize this finding and develop policies that meet the diverse characteristics present in the first generation student p opulation. Furthermore, future studies must be cognizant to treat first generation students as a diverse population and continue to expand on the literature examining within group differences of first generation students. Finally, the role of parents sho uld continue to be examined with a heightened focus on understanding how first may differ from non first generation students.
15 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In recent decades, the growth of educational aspirations among sc hool aged children has continued to increase and is also observed similarly in the increased participation rates at postsecondary institutions (Cooper, 2009; Engberg & Wolniak, 2010) Specifically, between 1969 and 2009 enrollment at degree granting posts econdary institutions more than doubled with enrollments increasing from 8 million students to 20.4 million students in this 40 year time span (Snyder & Dillow, 2011) These increased educational aspirations and participation rates suggest that access to postsecondary education may have significantly increased through recent decades, but a more nuanced look at these numbers implies access to postsecondary education is not equal for all students dependent upon background characteristics. In particular, des pite the increases in aspirations and enrollment, disparities and inequalities continue to exist in postsecondary enrollment across racial/ethnic groups, socioeconomic classifications, and parental education levels (Engberg & Allen, 2011; Engberg & Wolniak 2010; Saenz, Hurtado, Barrera, Wolf, & Yeung, 2007) One particular group of students that has seen increased access to postsecondary education in recent decades is first generation students (Choy, 2001; Strayhorn, 2006) According to a study conducte d by Saenz and associates (2007), one in six first year students at four year institutions is considered a first generation student; however, this number does not reflect the high proportion of first generation students enrolled at two year institutions. Strayhorn (2006) suggested 30% as a more accurate number of first generation students enrolled in all postsecondary institutions, not just four year institutions. First generation students are more likely to attend a two
16 year institution upon completion f rom high school than a four year institution (Chen, 2005) which is a critical factor for researchers studying the likelihood of first generation institution first generatio n students enroll in since not only the type of institution (two versus four year) but also the selectivity of the institution can influence the likelihood of earning a degree and long term social opportunity (Alon & Tienda, 2005; Bowen, Kurzweil, & Tobin, 2005) While enrollments in postsecondary institutions highlight potential disparities based on background differences, reviewing educational aspirations could also be a key element in understanding potential reasons for these differences. In additio n to disparities in enrollment numbers, first generation students may also differ from their peers in their educational aspirations before they even enter postsecondary education. Educational aspirations are a key component in shaping whether or not a stu dent actually pursues postsecondary education and in past studies (Park, Umbach, Padgett, Wells, & Seifert, 2011; Sayrs, 1989) Terenzini and associates (1996) compar ed first generation students to second generation students and found that first generation students were more likely to have lower educational aspirations than their peers. Subsequent studies also supported these findings highlighting results that indicat ed first those of their peers (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Saenz, et al., 2007) More recent research suggests that the disparities between first generation first genera (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006; Saenz, et al., 2007) Often these disparities are the result
17 of first limited resources, an d their disadvantaged academic preparation (Saenz, et al., 2007) As more first generation students successfully matriculate into postsecondary institutions, researchers are further examining how first educational aspirations shaped their degree aspirations (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) This research is imperative in order to understand why some first generation students aspire to enroll in postsecondary education, while others do not share a similar desire to attend any form of postsecondary education. Reviewing the role of degree aspirations on educational attainment is critical in understanding disparities in enrollment, but another key component to investigate is parental/guardian involvement received by first generation s tudents. Parental involvement, which is often viewed as a form of social capital, not only influences (L. Perna & Titus, 2005; Tierney, 2002) Although previous findings indicate paren tal involvement influences educational aspirations, scholars are not consistent with their definitions of parental involvement. In particular, a variety of definitions exist for parental involvement and there is also inconclusive evidence on the level of impact of parental involvement on educational aspirations (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2000b; Hossler, Schmit, & Vesper, 1999; Rowan Kenyon, Bell, & Perna, 2008) Researchers argue, regardless of the socioeconomic background of students or other demographic differ ences, most parents typically expect their children to attend college but differences in how this is conveyed to children and the level of involvement of parents is what varies (Gofen, 2009) First generation students often are placed at a disadvantage du e to their background;
18 therefore, it is necessary to determine if any differences exist in first generation Reviewing the degree aspirations of first generation students conti nues to be a critical public policy issue because of its connection to enrollment disparities at postsecondary institutions. These disparities prevalent in postsecondary institutions allow the current economic and social inequalities to continue to reflec t the stratified nature of our society (Engberg & Wolniak, 2010) For example, the differences between perpetuated by both annual earnings and job opportunities. On average, individuals only a high school diploma (Baum, Ma, & Payea, 2010) By recognizing these disparities between individuals who have earned a postsecondary degree and those who have not highlights the need to further explore why first generation students, who are already placed at a variety of disadvantages, are not aspiring and enrolling at postsecondary institutions at the same rates as their peers. Purpose of Study While mo re underrepresented students are gaining access to postsecondary education than in previous decades (Cooper, 2009; Engberg & Wolniak, 2010; L. Perna, 2000a, 2000b, 2006; Rowan Kenyon, et al., 2008) the proportion of particular populations remains unequal suggesting access to postsecondary institutions is not evenly disbursed. In particular, first generation students, while gaining more access to postsecondary education (Saenz, et al., 2007) still reflect a population that is struggling to gain equal acce ss to four year institutions since many first generation students enroll at two year institutions initially (Chen, 2005) Additionally, the college choice process
19 for first de gree aspirations (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2000a) The college choice process acts as a mechanism through which first generation students make decisions about educational aspirations. Inkelas and McCarron (2006) recommend that first educat ional aspirations should be examined within the context of their family circumstances. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of parental/guardian involvement on the degree aspirations of first generation students, specifically focused on wha t type of degree they are planning on pursuing following the completion of their high school education. This study examined students during the fall of their ninth grade year since degree aspirations are typically formed between the eight and tenth grade (Hossler, et al., 1999) In this study I performed descriptive and multivariate analysis of data available from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) conducted by the U.S Department of Education, Institute of Education Statistics. When thi s study was conducted, HSLS:09 provided the most robust and comprehensive dataset available to examine both the parental involvement construct, as well as the type of degree first generation students were aspiring to pursue. The HSLS:09 dataset initially surveyed ninth grade students in 2009 and will follow up with students in 2012. This study was focused on type of degree, if any, students were planning to pursue, so data were used specifically from 2009. Research Questions There was one primary question guiding this empirical study:
20 What is the relationship between parental/guardian involvement and ninth grade first generation degree aspirations upon completion of their high school education? Additionally, there was one sub question related to this primary research question: What is the relationship between parental involvement and ninth grade first completion of t heir high school education? In examining the degree aspirations of first generation students while they are early in their high school experience, there are a multitude of conceptual frameworks to consider. For this particular study it was necessary to find a framework that looked not only at individual background characteristics, but also family influences to study parental involvement, as well as school influences. The selected framework will be introduced and discussed in detail in following chapters It should be noted that this study looked at the differences within the first generation student population, such as income and racial differences, and did not focus on comparing first generation students to non first generation students (Phinney, Denni s, & Chuateco, 2005) Additionally, while the selected framework focuses on the overall college choice process, degree aspirations Rationale for the Study As more students continue to enter po stsecondary institutions in the United States (Snyder & Dillow, 2011) the enrollment disparity based on background differences still present becomes more critical to examine. In addition, despite increases in early educational aspirations amongst high school students, smaller proportions of diverse students than in previo us decades still anticipate attending postsecondary institution
21 once in the twelfth grade (Cooper, 2009) This finding contradicts others suggesting that students, particularly first generation students, recognize that to compete with their peers a colleg e degree is a necessity (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) Based on these contradictory findings, it is imperative to examine what factors, socially, economically, and culturally, influence the development of postsecondary degree aspirations (Cooper, 2009). In creasing access to postsecondary institutions is a public policy issue that needs further examination, especially understanding how earning a degree or enrolling in college can influence or affect students individually. A clear and discernible fact that s hows the individual benefit of earning a college degree is the salary differentiations between individuals who have earned or not earned a postsecondary degree. For example, the median earnings for high school graduates in 2009 was $33,800, while college graduates earned on average annually $55,700. At first glance, these differences may not seem significant, but through the course of a lifetime, the differences result in bachelor degree holders earning approximately 66% more during a 40 year work life th an high school graduates. Even when student loans are taken into consideration, significant differences continue to exist between high school and college graduates in their lifetime earnings ( Baum, et al., 2010 ) Recognizing the differences that exist between college and high school graduates is important in understanding how Investigating individual earnings and other factors more explicitly highlights pattern s present on key background characteristics. First, while racial/ethnic
22 than those with only high school diplomas. Similar differences were found in gender groups with males continuing to earn more than their female counterparts, but overall Baum, et al., 2010 ) While earnings are key measures of differences in educat ional attainment, other measures also highlight individual benefits of earning a college degree. For example, unemployment rates differed greatly between those who had and had not earned a te for high school graduates was over two times greater than that for college graduates (U.S. Department of Labor, 2011). Related to unemployment rate, individuals who earned a college degree or attended some college were also more likely to be more satis fied with their position than those with only a high school diploma or less (Baum, et al., 2010) It is economic opportunity and social opportunity of individuals. However, the pathway to postsecondary institution. Therefore, it is important to recognize what factors shape postsecondary degree aspirations, as the initial step on the pathway to deg ree completion and a lifetime of increased earnings. investigate, the societal benefits are also critical when exploring the factors that The opportunity to increase the number of results in social and economic losses (Engberg & Allen, 2011) From a societal perspective, individuals with more education are more likely to donate their time to
23 volunteer opportunities (Baum, et al., 2010) Increasing the number of volunteers can impact numerous social organizations from a broad prospective and assist numerous individuals. Another issue that highlights th e societal benefits of more individuals earning a health. For instance, college educated individuals were less likely to be obese and smoke than individuals who had not attended college (Baum, et al., 2010) A healthier society could help decrease costs necessary for health programs nationally. Finally, as a democratic society, one of our most important tasks to complete is to become critically engaged and college grad uates are more likely to vote than individuals with high school diplomas or less (Baum, et al., 2010) Reviewing policies that affect the degree aspirations to postsecondary institutions is key if we want to make significant improvements on decreasing the current disparities seen between individuals who have Reviewing the social and economic benefits of earning a college degree provide a strong rationale to investigate first spirations. While numerous studies on first generation students have already been conducted, much of the focus has concentrated on a few select areas. For instance, previous research conducted on first generation students placed an emphasis on comparing them to second generation students or other students who at a minimum had (Gofen, 2009) Specifically, the research highlighted how they differed in numerous ways from their peers, focusin g on their academic preparation, socioeconomic status, and racial
24 background (Choy, Horn, Nunez, & Chen, 2000; Hossler, et al., 1999; Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella, & Nora, 1996) In addition, research on first generation students has traditiona lly concentrated on this population as a homogenous group and not addressed particular differences within the group based on ethnic/racial or socioeconomic backgrounds (Phinney, et al., 2005) Despite the plethora of research conducted on first generatio n students, more nuanced investigations need to occur to understand how first generation students navigate the college choice process and ultimately decide to be the first in their family to attend college (Gofen, 2009) Additionally, further research is necessary to address the within group differences present in the first generation student population and understand if these differences influence degree aspirations (Phinney, et al., 2005) Currently, there is limited information available about the nume rous pathways students take to enter postsecondary education, especially disadvantaged students such as first generation students (Engberg & Wolniak, 2009) Reviewing the first generation student population as a heterogeneous population may provide insigh ts about how some first generation students successfully navigate the college choice process while others do not. In addition, past research on the role of gender and racial/ethnic background differences on educational aspirations has been found inconclus ive, so further studies investigating these differences is warranted (Cooper, 2009) As the student population in the education system becomes more diverse, it is critical to examine the numerous pathways students are taking to enter postsecondary educati on, especially for students who do not have parents/guardians who previously attended college.
25 In addition to reviewing first essential to understand how parents/guardians influence the college choi ce process and degree aspirations. It is especially salient to review parent involvement for first degree are more likely to transmit the important value of higher educati on along to their children (Hossler, et al., 1999; Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2004) Few previous studies have reviewed the connection between first families, or more specifically their parents/guardians, and their deg ree aspirations (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) In addition, while parental/guardian involvement increases the probability of enrolling in a two or four year institution (L. Perna & Titus, 2005) previous research does not typically discuss how parental/guar dian involvement influences which type of degree a student may be more inclined to pursue. Further information is necessary to understand how parental involvement influences what type of postsecondary degree, if any, that a first generation student aspire s to pursue. Scope of Study The scope of this study was to examine the role of parental/guardian involvement on the type of postsecondary degree that first generation students aspired to pursue upon completion of high school using a nationally representa tive sample. Specifically, the HSLS:09 dataset was used to identify specific elements of parental involvement that would predict the type of postsecondary degree first generation students considered pursuing while still in high school. The sample consist ed of first generation high school students who were surveyed initially in 2009 during the ninth grade. The HSLS:09 dataset contains information from students who attend a broad range of high schools, including both public and private high schools. Non public
26 schools, such as Catholic schools, were surveyed at a higher rate to ensure that they were adequately representative and could be compared to public schools. As a result of the diverse backgrounds of the high schools in this dataset, the findings of this study reflect first schools and are not limited to one specific high school type. Using the HSLS:09 provided a national level sample that reflected the United States popu lation of ninth graders in high schools. Findings from this study are unique to first generation students in the United States and should not be generalized to students in other countries. Significance of Study Empirical and current research on the path ways first generation students take to enroll in postsecondary education is needed to clearly understand how some students are able to get passed the disadvantages placed against them. In addition, this information will inform policy makers and allow admi nistrators to develop specific programs to assist first generation students. The present study identified the role of parental/guardian involvement on first particular postsecondary degree. In addition, this s tudy also investigated potential differences amongst first generation students to determine their level of homogeneity across factors such as racial/ethnic background, income level, and school influence. Recognizing these differences is imperative in deve loping appropriate policies and practices aimed at assisting first generation students from all demographic backgrounds in pursuing postsecondary degree at comparable rates as their peers. Increasing the number of disadvantaged students, namely first gene ration students, in pursuing postsecondary degrees may assist in decreasing the current disparities that are
27 prevalent in all postsecondary institutions and provide economic and societal benefits to a larger number of people. Additionally, the long term goal would be to see more of this population earn society as a whole. The 2020 American Graduation Initiative proposed by President Obama in 2009 aims to increase postsecondar y degrees and certificates by an additional five million by 2020. In order to accomplish this goal, an additional .5 million degrees will need to be awarded each year leading up to 2020, which equates to an annual increase of 16% in conferred degrees (Kot amraju & Blackman, 2011) By increasing enrollment numbers for first generation students, the opportunity to meet the expectations of the 2020 American Graduation Initiative could become more feasible. Chapter Summary This chapter highlighted the proble m of the increasing disparities in enrollment in postsecondary education of students from diverse backgrounds. As more students are aspiring and entering postsecondary education today, it is more relevant than in previous decades to understand how first g eneration students form their postsecondary degree aspirations in conjunction with the influence of their parents. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of parental/guardian involvement on the degree aspirations formed by first generation stud ents while they are still enrolled in high school. In addition, attention was given to background differences amongst first generation students, namely racial/ethnic and income background. The HSLS:09 dataset was utilized for this study because it provid ed the most comprehensive and recent source of national data related to postsecondary aspirations.
28 Understanding postsecondary degree aspirations is essential in order to minimize disparities prevalent among first generation students not only during col lege but also throughout their lifetime. The limited focus on first influences postsecondary degree aspirations. Additionally, this study examines how first generation students are not a homogenous group and suggests that further investigation of within group differences is necessary to determine if different background differences affect degree aspirations. Findings from this study can inf orm policy makers and administrators about the best practices to assist this unique student population.
29 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Degree aspirations are a critical aspect to examine when reviewing the potential college destinations of first generation students. The purpose of this study is to examine the role of parental/guardian involvement on the degree aspirations of ninth grade first generation students; therefore, this literature review will explore the process of first generation students. The college choice process encompasses many facets of w hich one is the development of educational aspirations and more specifically degree aspirations. This study decided to use the college choice literature as a framework for the investigation of first purpos es of this study, parental involvement will also refer to guardian involvement and the use of the term parent will also encompass guardian. Due to the history of the college choice process, this literature review will include a brief overview of the coll ege choice process to provide insight about the development of the college choice process in research and provide context for the theoretical framework of this study and its focus on degree aspirations. It is also significant to understand how background differences of first generation students influence the types of degrees first generation students consider pursuing once they complete high school. Despite a significant amount of research on first generation students, limited research exists on the role first generation students or first college degree. It is critical then to examine the extant literature on first generation
30 stud first generation students. To facilitate this discussion, this chapter is divided into four main sections. The first section introduces key terms and concepts that will be referenced throughout the remainder of this chapter and study. The second section will provide a rich overview of research literature on first generation students focusing on relevant background characteristics pertinent to this study. The next section r eviews specific factors that influence the college choice process and formation of degree aspirations for first generation students, with a large emphasis on parental influence. Additional influences, such as school context, will also be discussed. In th e fourth section, a brief overview of the college choice literature will be provided, which will directly lead into the discussion model of college choice. This chapter w ill conclude with a brief summary of the highlights discussed in this chapter. Definition of Key Terms C OLLEGE CHOICE It is the process through which individuals decide whether and where to pursue postsecondary education (Bergerson, 2009) In addition t o referring to the decision to attend postsecondary education, it also highlights whether to attend a four year institution, a selective institution, or a specific institution over other alternatives (Hossler, Braxton, & Coopersmith, 1989) It begins when students start exploring the option of postsecondary education and concludes once students enroll in a particular institution (Bergerson, 2009; Hossler, et al., 1989; L. Perna, 2006) It is a broad process that addresses not only educational aspirations but also degree aspirations. DEGREE ASPIRATIONS Educational aspirations broadly addresses the individual expectations students have for the highest level of education they hope to achieve (Garg, Kauppi, Lewko, & Urajnik, 2002; Nunez & Cuccaro Alamin, 1998) Literature often uses the term educational aspirations and this study will utilize intention about pursuing a particular postsecondary degree.
31 ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVE Assu mes students base their decision of whether or not to pursue higher education on the results of comparing anticipated costs of attending college against the long term benefits and gains of attending college (Paulsen, 1990, 2001) The expected costs and be nefits include both monetary and nonmonetary factors (L. Perna, 2006) SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPEC TIVE One perspective of college choice models that emphasizes the role of individual background characteristics on whether and where students pursue higher educa tion (Bergerson, 2009) S OCIOECONOMIC STATUS A combination of factors including family income level, education level of parent, and occupational status of parent (Harwell & LeBeau, 2010) Students included in lower socioeconomic status groups have les s access to both cultural and social capital (Walpole, 2003) FIRST GENERATION STUDENTS Students that are the first in their family to enroll in postsecondary education are categorized as first generation students. Often, refers to having parents who did not attend nor earn a postsecondary degree (Choy, et al., 2000) This study will focus on first time in college, traditional aged first generation students. CULTURAL CAPITAL Characteristics including language, cultural knowledge, and manners that (Bourdieu, 1986) S OCIAL CAPITAL network and the amount of social, economic, and cultural capital these networks possess (Bourdieu, 1986) First generation Students First generation students are a unique population of students that warrant further examination because of their decreased likelihood of attending a postsecondary institution after earnin g a high school diploma in comparison to their peers who have at least one parent who attended a postsecondary institution (Choy, et al., 2000) Despite the lower likelihood of attending postsecondary institutions, first generation students are increasing their enrollment numbers at both the postsecondary level (Choy, 2001; Inkelas & McCarron, 2006; Ishitani, 2003) and at the high school level (Kelly, 2005) These growing numbers indicate that first generation students are succeeding in
32 graduating from hi gh school and transitioning to postsecondary education, but further investigation is necessary to see what factors are influencing their eventual postsecondary degree aspirations and enrollment. Additionally, research has found that first generation stud ents continue to lack the advantages and resources to make them competitive with their peers during the college choice and application process (Smith, 2008; Terenzini, et al., 1996; Walpole, 2003) Despite these potential disadvantages, though, first gene ration students tend to have more motivation and desire to pursue a postsecondary degree than many of their peers (Hicks & Dennis, 2005) These findings indicate that many first generation students are interested in pursuing postsecondary education option s once they complete their high school education. Although an abundance of information is available on first generation students regarding their postsecondary experiences (Pascarella, et al., 2004; Pike & Kuh, 2005) there is a dearth of evidence available on the preparation and application process that allowed first generation students to successfully pursue postsecondary degrees (Gofen, 2009; Thayer, 2000) Past studies on first generation students have covered a large gamete of issues. In particular, previous studies focused on retention (Ishitani, 2003, 2006; Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005) academic preparation (Warburton, Bugarin, & Nunez, 2001) postsecondary success (Engle, 2007; Engle & Tinto, 2008; Pascarella, et al., 2004) and educational aspiration s (Bui, 2002; Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) Despite an abundance of research on the postsecondary experiences of first generation students, there is still limited information regarding their motivations and process to attend postsecondary institutions (Olive 2008) Before investigating potential motivations for first generation
33 students to attend postsecondary institutions, it is imperative to understand the characteristics that typically are connected to this population of students. Broadly, first gener ation students differ from their peers based on their high school experiences, racial/ethnic backgrounds, family socioeconomic status, gender, family/parent involvement, and college choice process (Choy, 2001; Hossler, et al., 1999; Pascarella, et al., 200 4; Terenzini, et al., 1996) Additionally, first generation students are more likely to come from a home where English is not the primary language (Bui, 2002) Typically, first generation students are over represented in the most disadvantaged subsets of each of the aforementioned groups (Choy, 2001) A more nuanced look at the differences of first generation students indicates that first generation students are more likely to be members of an ethnic/racial minority group than their non first generation peers (Bui, 2002; Choy, 2001) For example, Latino students represented 18% of first generation students, while in non first generation students Latino students only represented 7% (Warburton, et al., 2001) Since 1975, though, Latino students have been the racial group most likely to represent first generation students at four year institutions (Saenz, et al., 2007) In terms of socioeconomic status, many first generation students come from families with lower family income than their non first generation peers (Terenzini, et al., 1996) Specifically, 29% of first generation students are considered to be from low income families while only 9% of the non first generation student population is categorized a s being from low income families (Warburton, et al., 2001) While these background characteristics cannot be changed, investigating first
34 the potential to highlight factors that influenced first generation st aspirations to attend postsecondary institutions. Previous research suggested that many of these background characteristics, namely being first generation, coming from a lower income, and being Black or Latino decreases the likelihood of a ctually enrolling in postsecondary education (Bell, Rowan Kenyon, & Perna, 2009; Ellwood & Kane, 2000) These characteristics, which may place first generation students at a disadvantage when trying to pursue postsecondary education, are all independently associated with lower rates of college attendance and collectively may limit the postsecondary options available for first generation students (Engle & Tinto, 2008) While not all first generation students must overcome these hurdles to attend postsecond ary institutions, many of them must learn to navigate the college choice process despite these disadvantages. Although first generation students are disproportionately from lower income families and ethnic/racial minorities, they are not a homogenous grou p (Olive, 2008; Phinney, et al., 2005) Past research investigated whether different income levels of first generation students from higher income backgrounds were more likely to pe rsist throughout postsecondary education in comparison to first generation students from lower income families (Paulsen & St. John, 2002) This finding indicates not only that first generation students come from diverse economic backgrounds, but also that these background differences within the first generation population can influence first postsecondary education success. More research is needed to see what background
35 differences in first generation students may influence their coll ege choice process and degree aspirations. It is important to highlight that previous research on first generation students typically described them as a monolithic group and often did not acknowledge the diverse racial/ethnic and other characteristic diff erences present in this population (Phinney, et al., 2005) As the overall student population continues to diversify (Engberg & Allen, 2011; Engberg & Wolniak, 2010; Saenz, et al., 2007; Snyder & Dillow, 2011) it is imperative to examine the first genera tion student population for within group differences and their potential influences on the college choice process. Educational Aspirations One of the strongest predictors of future educational attainment, regardless of background or demographic characteristics, is student educational aspirations (Park, et al., 2011) This finding supports previous findings that suggest that educational aspir ations, which are often connected to parental encouragement, also are a major predictor of postsecondary institution application rates (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001; L. Perna, 2006) Despite previous research highlighting the positive connection of educational aspirations to future educational attainment or application rates, educational aspirations are not similar across all student populations (Hurtado, Inkelas, Briggs, & Rhee, 1997) Further investigation into how educational aspirations vary by student pop ulations and demographic differences is critical, as well as potentially insightful into why or why not first generation students aspire to pursue postsecondary degrees. Between 1980 and 2002 a dramatic increase in educational aspirations occurred with three quarters in 2002 (Goyette, 2008) Although there was a significant increase in
36 degree aspirations for all students, disparities still exist for students from disadv antaged backgrounds. For example, there is almost a 40 percent gap between students from the highest socioeconomic background and lowest socioeconomic background aspiring to attend a four year postsecondary institution (Ingels & Dalton, 2008) Students f rom lower family incomes not only have lower expectations to earn a college degree, but also are less likely to anticipate taking entrance examinations, applying to a four year institution, and enrolling in a four year institution even when only college qu alified students are considered (Fitzgerald, 2004) Differences in educational aspirations also exist based on racial backgrounds with only one fifth of Black students and one quarter of Latino students considered college qualified actually applying to co llege during the twelfth grade (Hurtado, et al., 1997) In addition to these findings highlighting lower levels of aspirations for students from particular socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds, research has also highlighted differences pertinent to first generation students. First generation students continue to exhibit lower educational aspirations in comparison to their peers (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Saenz, et al., 2007) These lower aspirations may be connected to the myriad of factors that fi rst generation students face in order to overcome their lower likelihood of attending postsecondary institutions (Choy, 2001; Engle, 2007; Nunez & Cuccaro Alamin, 1998; Pascarella, et al., 2004) In addition to exhibiting lower educational aspirations for postsecondary enrollment (Choy, 2001; Hahs Vaughn, 2004; Ishitani, 2003; Saenz, et al., 2007; Terenzini, et al., 1996) first generation students often indicate these lower educational aspirations for enrollment early in their academic experiences (Choy, 2001) For example, differences
37 in educational aspirations form as early as the eighth grade with 16% of first generation students indicating that they would not go to college while only 1% of their peers suggested they would not go to college. These asp irations changed by the time students entered the twelfth grade with over 90% of all students interested in pursuing college; however, a more intimate look reveals that 53% of first generation students most 90% of their peers (Choy, 2001) It is evident that first generation students start considering postsecondary education as an option much later than their peers and this could influence their aspir ations, as well as their planning process (McDonough, 1997) First Despite developing lower educational aspirations prior to entering high school (Choy, 2001) first generation students in rece nt decades have started exhibiting higher educational aspirations than first generation students in previous decades (Saenz, et al., 2007) These increased aspirations could be connected to first generation students recognizing that in order to compete wi th their peers from families with college educated parents they must pursue postsecondary education (Goyette, 2008) Past research suggested a variety of reasons why first generation students intended to pursue postsecondary education and suggest that the se reasons differ from peers whose parents attended postsecondary institutions. Demonstrating the need to improve their future status in society, first generation students were often found to pursue postsecondary education in order to improve their socia l, economic, and educational status (Nunez & Cuccaro Alamin, 1998) Improving their economic status is paramount for a large number of first generation students with
38 many reporting one of the biggest reasons they wanted to pursue postsecondary education w as the result of seeing their parents struggle financially when they were children (Acker Ball, 2007) Bui (2002) furthered this research focus by investigating the differences in pursuing postsecondary education between first generation students and non first generation students. She found that first generation students were motivated to pursue postsecondary education in order to gain more respect and status, financially assist their family after graduation, and increase honor for their family. In parti cular, first generation students differed significantly from their peers in their desire situation upon completion of their education. This finding is in alignment with the previous suggestion that first generation students feel compelled to pursue postsecondary education to make meaningful impacts on their families and respective communities (Pascarella, et al., 2004) Investigating the reasons that first generation stu dents aspire to attend postsecondary institutions may provide insight for researchers about avenues to improve first generation students likelihood of enrolling in postsecondary institutions despite the disadvantages placed against this population of stude nts. Pre postsecondary Academic Experiences While aspirations and demographic backgrounds indicate potential differences between first generation students and their peers, high school academic experiences also are indicative of aspects that may differ be tween these two groups. Broadly, first generation students often receive less college preparation throughout their time in high school than their peers (Pascarella, et al., 2004; Penrose, 2002; Wang & Castaneda
39 Sound, 2008) This can be explained by firs t standardized tests, high school course selections, and academic skill sets. Reviewing academic results exhibits that first generation students typically received lower grade point averages than their peers and also displ ayed lower results on standardized tests (Brown & Burkhardt, 1999; Chen, 2005; Hahs Vaughn, 2004; Penrose, 2002; Riehl, 1994) Related to lower grade point averages, first generation students also participated in less rigorous coursework throughout their high school experience (Chen, 2005; Choy, 2001; Warburton, et al., 2001) These academic differences highlight factors that may influence first aspirations. Coursework in high school is an important factor to investigate beca use it often positively influences college persistence (Adelman, 2006) For example, 55% of first generation students who enrolled in regular courses in high school remained in college after three years but the number increased to 81% when first generatio n students enrolled in more advanced, rigorous coursework (Trotter, 2001) Even when eighth grade academic ability is controlled for students from underrepresented ethnic groups, which often encompass many first generation students, these students were le ss likely to take college preparatory mathematics courses in comparison to their White and Asian American peers (Hamrick & Stage, 2004) First their peers with deficiencies in th e areas of reading, math, and critical thinking, which may influence their ability to take more rigorous coursework while in high school (Choy, 2001; Terenzini, et al., 1996) Not all first generation students experience these
40 disadvantages and struggles in high school, so it is critical to remember this population of students is quite diverse in their academic experiences as well as demographic background. However, in a recent survey of college qualified students who did not attend a postsecondary instit ution, 37% of the respondents were students whose parents did not have above a high school diploma (Hahn & Price, 2008) This finding highlights that even college qualified first generation students must still overcome numerous factors to pursue a postsec ondary education. College Knowledge Knowledge regarding the college choice process is often conveyed through parents but for first generation students this information may not be available since their parents do not have first hand experience of attending a postsecondary institution (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) This lack of knowledge can be detrimental to students because students with lower levels of college knowledge are less likely to attend postsecondary institutions (Bell, et al., 2009) Typically, the amount of information first generation students have in comparison to their peers is smaller and may influence which institutions they deem as the best fit for them (Cho, Hudley, Lee, Barry, & Kelly, 2008) This lack of information poses particular risks for first generation students and causes the college choice process to be an overwhelming process for many of them (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005) There are a few particular areas where first generation students may lack knowledge pertinent to the college choice process. First, they are not as likely to be knowledgeable about how to navigate the college application process (Thayer, 2000; York Anderson & Bowman, 1991) Next, first generation students also lack information relevant to the ac tual costs of attending postsecondary education (Hsiao, 1992; L.
41 Perna, 2004; York Anderson & Bowman, 1991) However, more recent research suggests that first generation students are starting to become better aware of the steps and necessities required to attend postsecondary institutions, as well as finding new resources to provide them additional access to college (Hicks & Dennis, 2005) The role of college knowledge on postsecondary access is evident but as more first generation students enter college further research is warranted. Postsecondary Institution Enrollment Patterns When first generation students navigate the college choice process and are developing educational aspirations, they must be cognizant of the types of institutions they are con sidering due to the long term impacts of attending particular institutions. Previous research has indicated that first generation students are concentrated in two year institutions (Engle, 2007; Nunez & Cuccaro Alamin, 1998) which indicates that first ge neration students are gaining access to postsecondary institutions but two year percent of first generation students from a low income background who started at a two year or for profit institution successfully transferred to a four year institution within six years in comparison to their non first generation students from higher income brackets (Engle & Tinto, 2008) Contrary to those starting at two year institutio ns, first generation students who began their postsecondary pursuits at four year institutions were seven times more (Engle & Tinto, 2008) This number shows the benefit of first generation students enrolling at a four y ear institution directly after high school, but only one quarter of first generation students typically start their postsecondary education at a four year institution. The remaining three quarters pursued
42 postsecondary options at two year institutions or other types of institutions, such as for profit institutions (Engle & Tinto, 2008) Regardless of whether first generation students enroll at two or four year postsecondary institutions after high school, they are more likely to begin their postsecondary education pursuits at less selective institutions than (Pascarella, et al., 2004) It is apparent that the enrollment patterns of first generation students influence their long term degree attainments, but may also be related to their background characteristics, such as racial/ethnic background (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006; Pascarella, et al., 2004) Investigating degree aspirations for first generation students may prov ide information about what factors influence the type of institution first generation students consider. The background characteristics of first generation students provide critical information about this population of students as a whole and highlight the particular areas where many first generation students are not as competitive as their peers throughout the college choice process. In addition to background characteristics, though, many first generation students differ from their peers in terms of the influences they receive throughout their college choice process and on their development of degree aspirations. These influences may directly or indirectly influence first generation ations and must be further explored to understand their role in first generation st udents. The section will conclude with a discussion of additional influence
43 and counselors. Parental Influences Throughout the college choice process, parents are one of the most influential (Flint, 1992; Niu & Tienda, 2008) educational experiences and college choice process (Hoove r Dempsey & Sander, 1995; Hossler, et al., 1989; Hossler & Stage, 1992; Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) Defining parental involvement is a difficult process but should be understood as a al experience and includes specifics such as attending school functions, talking to students about their educational experiences, and encouraging educational pursuits (Fann, McClafferty Jarsky, & McDonough, 2009; Hoover Dempsey & Sander, 1995) Pertinent to this study involvement related to the college choice process includes discussions between parents and students about college opportunities, financial planning, and campus vis its. There are numerous reasons why including parental involvement in research studies on college choice is limited. First, including parent involvement in research studies is limited by how to define it. For instance, in quantitative research parental involvement is often defined by the quantity of time parents spend with their children and does not incorporate other indicators to create a more multidimensional construct (Horn & Chen, 1998; L. Perna, 2000a; L. Perna & Titus, 2005) A second limitation with including parental involvement in college choice models is that past studies do not recognize how school structures influence parental involvement. Only considering the
44 parent and not the influence of the school on students, limits the potential impa ct a school system has on the parents (Perna & Titus, 2005). Parental involvement is a critical construct, which must be further explored to determine its influence on first Despite the lack of a specific model d iscussing the role of parents in the college choice process or one clear definition of parental involvement, a variety of past studies Chapman (1981) found that parents are th aspirations even after controlling for socioeconomic status. Research has also indicated that as students progress through the college choice process and move closer to making a final decision, parents become (Hossler et al., 1989; Smith & Fleming, 2006). In particular, during the latter stages of the college choice process other individuals such as teachers, counselors and peers tend to influence the selection and choice of schools more than parents (Hossler et al., 1989). Despite acting as a secondary influence, though, parents continue to highly influence students regarding which college they will actually attend and throughout the entire college search process ( Hossler et al., 1989; Smith and Fleming, 2006). In addition to providing overall influence and guidance to their children during the college choice process, parents provide specific support mechanisms to their children during this process. For instance, while students are initially searching out colleges that are a good fit for them, they typically rely on recommendations from those individuals they are closest to, which usually is their parents (Flint, 1992). Additionally, prior to the beginning of the
45 (2000) further stated that even starting at the junior high level, parental involvement in student act ivities predicts whether a student will matriculate at a four year institution following high school. Cabrera and LaNasa (2000) found that parental involvement was higher for students who ultimately decided to attend a four year institution in comparison to the support that students who decided to attend a two year institution reported. Collectively, parental involvement and degree expectations often influence the type of postsecondary institution students explore with higher expectations of parents relat ed to students exploring more competitive and prestigious colleges (Flint, 1992). Parental involvement is a multi faceted construct that directly influences postsecondary educational aspirations for children and ultimately their enrollment (Cabrera & LaNa sa, 2000; Hossler et al., 1999; Perna, 2000). It must be further explored, though, to gain a better understanding of how it more specifically affects the degree aspirations of first generation students and also its interaction with other characteristics, such as race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Parent Influences Specific to First generation Students Inkelas and McCarron (2006) suggest that in order to develop successful opportunities during the college choice process for first generation students, it is imperative to examine educational aspirations and experiences within the context of their families. Past research has indicated that first generation students often receive less family support than their peers in pursuing postsecondary education (N unez & Cuccaro Alamin, 1998; Pascarella, et al., 2004) The support to pursue postsecondary education may be limited for first generation students since their families may be lacking direct experience of college and may not share similar educational value s as parents
46 who have attended postsecondary institutions (McDonough, 1997) In particular, some research suggests that first children navigate the college choice process, especially in the final stage of choosing a specific institution (Choy, 2001; Pascarella, et al., 2004; Thayer, 2000; York Anderson & Bowman, 1991) More recent work, though, has indicated that first a positive influence rather than a deterrent to attend postsecondary institutions. For example, McCarron and Inkelas (2006) found that first generation students did rely o n their parents to assist them in the college choice process and additionally this involvement positively influenced their college aspirations. Additionally, Saenz and associates (2007) reported that in the past 15 years first generation students are more likely to indicate than their peers the reason they are pursuing postsecondary education is because their parents encouraged them to earn a higher education. Furthermore, while both first generation students and their peers reported higher levels of pare ntal encouragement to attend postsecondary education, first encouragement more than doubled since 1971 (Saenz, et al., 2007) Parental encouragement is one method of support for first generation students since their parents may not be able to provide academic support or financial assistance for students interested in partaking in extra curricular study skills/SAT courses (Acker Ball, 2007) Despite potentially different levels and types of involvement, parent involvement wi th first generation students was found to be essential since this population of students often navigates the college choice process much differently than their peers (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) As a result of these contradictory findings,
47 further investig ation is warranted on the benefits of including parents in the college choice process of first generation students. High School Context The high schools that many first generation students attend vary drastically from the ones that many of their non fir st generation peers attend. For instance, since many first generation students are from lower income backgrounds (Terenzini, et al., 1996) they often attend a high school that does not receive as many resources as schools located in higher income distric ts. For example, first generation students often are enrolled in high schools that receive lower funding, report crowded classrooms, offer limited advanced course offerings, and employ under prepared teachers (Hamrick & Stage, 2004) Further analysis of body also indicates there is a relationship with whether students are likely to attend two and four year postsecondary institutions (Engberg & Wolniak, 2010) In addition, the socioeconomic average of a student body also has been connected to parental involvement, with higher averages more likely to promote pursuing a four year postsecondary institution (Engberg & Wolniak, 2010) As a result of limited resources, students may not receive adequate prepar ation for the college choice process. Subsequently, students who are enrolled in a high school that they feel is not adequately preparing them for postsecondary education are significantly less likely to aspire to attend postsecondary institutions in their future (Pitre, 2006) Finally, the high school context is also connected to the pursuit of four year postsecondary institutions. For example, when students attend a high school that is more focused on preparing students for four year postsecondary insti tutions, they are more likely to pursue four year institutions (Engberg & Wolniak, 2009, 2010; Hossler, et al., 1999;
48 McDonough, 1997) aspirations and further analysis is necessary to determine t heir influence specific to first generation students. Teachers and Counselors First generation students rely on their high school counselors and teachers in different ways than many of their non first generation peers. In particular, first generation students often seek out the advice of their high school counselors and teachers to assist them in the college choice process since their parents do not have direct experience with applying to or attending postsecondary institutions (Horn & Nunez, 2000; Sae nz, et al., 2007) When first generation students do reach out to their counselors, though, counselors oftentimes are limited to provide college guidance, especially at under funded schools where counselors are more focused on larger disciplinary or indiv idual problems (McDonough, 1997) First generation students may also not utilize their counselors and teachers effectively since first generation students are often not fully versed in the type of information to request and questions to raise putting more strain on their college search process (Hsiao, 1992) Teacher and counselor involvement may significantly influence first Theoret ical Framework College choice is a multi faceted process that begins once students start exploring postsecondary education options (Bergerson, 2009; Hossler, et al., 1989) During the past several decades, college choice has become a pertinent aspect in h igher education research, especially as more parents and students recognized the necessity to start their college choice process early on in high school, if not earlier (Kinzie et al.,
49 2004) Once researchers acknowledged that many families were using sim ilar steps in the college choice process, they started developing models to explain the stages families cycled through in the college choice process. With intensified research on college choice, a more accurate representation of the college choice process evolved and numerous models emerged (L. Perna, 2006) The college choice process includes numerous steps that individuals move through before attending college, but one of the earliest aspects is when individuals decide whether or not to attend college (Hossler, et al., 1989; L. Perna, 2006) This study will focus on this early step in the college choice process to examine how degree aspirations differ for within group differences of the first generation student population. To accomplish this examinati selected because it recognizes the variety of influences on students during the college choice process and more specific to this study the development of degree aspirations. This section will begin with a b rief overview of college choice models focused specifically on the Hossler and Gallagher model (1987). Next, a thorough review of the proposed conceptual model of college cho ice, will be presented. Review of Previous College Choice Models Through the past three decades numerous college choice models have developed with scholars identifying a vast number of factors influencing the college choice process (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2000b; Freeman, 1997; Hossler & Gallagher, 1987; McDonough, 1997; L. Perna, 2006) Within these college choice models, various frameworks also emerged such as psychological, economical, and sociological (Engberg & Wolniak, 2009; Paulsen, 1990; L. Perna, 2 006) Each perspective highlights particular aspects of
50 the college choice process and may be considered incomplete, so a more recent practice is to utilize models that combine a variety of perspectives. Additionally, many of these perspectives emerged a s the result of research focused on traditional, White (McDonough, 1997; Paulsen & St. John, 2002; Smith & Fleming, 2006) With a more diverse contingent of students considering postsecondary edu cation today, these previous models exclude the experiences of these students. As a result, these more comprehensive and robust models are common in college choice research today and allow scholars to address more nuanced perspectives of the diverse stude nts exploring postsecondary options currently (Hossler, et al., 1989; Rooney, 2008) Additionally, the inclusion of different perspectives from diverse students creates an p opulation (Paulsen & St. John, 2002) While a variety of college choice models developed through the years, only a small number have continued to be utilized regularly in scholarly work. For instance, the Donald Hossler and Karen Gallagher model was deve loped in 1987, but continues to be one of the most cited college choice models in research literature (Bergerson, 2009) of college choice, which will guide this study theoret ically. The Hossler and Gallagher model has three main stages that suggest specific outcomes and actions: predisposition, search, and choice (Hossler & Gallagher, 1987) The first stage, predisposition, suggests that particular background characteristic s and parental expectations influence the college choice process of students (Hossler &
51 Gallagher, 1987) Once students have made the definitive decision about whether or not they will pursue higher education, they enter the search stage of the college ch oice process. During this stage, both parents and students explore their educational goals and how they fit with their financial situations (Flint, 1992; Hossler & Gallagher, 1987) Throughout this stage parents and students explore postsecondary options by visiting institutions, reviewing college materials, speaking with guidance counselors, and contacting college representatives (Hossler & Gallagher, 1987) At the conclusion of this stage, students and parents have a prospective list of postsecondary i nstitutions they believe are a good match for their educational goals, financial situations, and academic characteristics (Hossler & Gallagher, 1987) During the final stage, choice, students finalize their lists of potential postsecondary institutions th ey are willing to apply to and eventually decide which institution to attend (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2000b; Hossler & Gallagher, 1987) model, typically focused on particular aspect making process or specific characteristics and did not consider how many of these influences jointly influenced the college choice process. While these past models were critical in developing a strong foundation for college choice research, they were limited in the perspectives they considered, as well as the types of students included in studies. In particular, previous models relied heavily on either human capital models or sociological perspectives and failed to recognize that b oth perspectives worked collectively on influencing the college choice decision process (Bergerson, 2009)
52 These previous models, while limited in scope, did provide valuable information that influenced how colleges interacted with students and students made decisions. With more diverse students considering postsecondary education, though, it is imperative to utilize a model today that takes into consideration the variety of lt of these limitations, I selected a more recent and robust model to guide the development 6) model utilizes a combination of both economical and sociological perspectives to address the college choice process for students. The combination of college choice p rocess, including student characteristics, school influences, and family Economical approach T he economic approach typically encompasses the human capital investment model. A basic premise of human capital theory is that when individuals are more productive, they are rewarded with increased pay (Becker, 1993) Individuals may have different produ ctivity due to their personal development, education quality, amount of education, and job flexibility (Becker, 1962) The cornerstone of human capital investment theory is that the more education an individual accrues the higher their earnings potential will be in their careers (Becker, 1993) This basic premise of human capital investment theory also considers that individuals who are contemplating additional education also reflect on the monetary
53 investment and make a rational decision about if the fi nancial investment for further education will be beneficial long term (Becker, 1993) Past college choice research that used human capital investment models as a framework were focused on the third stage d typically used a quantitative methodology to understand enrollment patterns (L. Perna, 2006) While the findings of past research using human capital investment models have been substantial, they do not address specific issues relevant to this study. N amely, these models do not take into consideration different family incomes or different racial/ethnic backgrounds (Paulsen, 2001; L. Perna, 2006) ; however, Perna recognized this deficiency and incorporated aspects of the sociological approach into her mod el. Sociological approach education and occupation aspirations. This focus was the resu lt of the assumption that aspirations resulted from academic achievement and demographic characteristics such as socioeconomic status. These socioeconomic status models suggest that students from a stronger academic and economic background will receive mo re support in their college choice process which influences their aspirations and eventual attainment (L. Perna, 2006) While the socioeconomic status models provided essential information, more recent work has started to incorporate the influences of so cial and cultural capital on student college choice (Bergerson, 2009) Using these sociological approaches allows researchers to understand the college choice process in terms of multiple types of context and not isolate particular influences. Despite th e advantages of both the
54 economical and sociological perspectives, using either one independently in college choice research is insufficient when diverse populations of individuals are considered (L. Perna, 2006) odel As a result of her research, Perna (2006) recognized the weaknesses and advantages of both the sociological and economic approaches and identified a need for a more comprehensive and robust model. Economic models provide researchers the opportunity to investigate the decision making proce ss of students, but they do not highlight the information students are using to make their decisions. Sociological models do allow researchers to gather a more nuanced perspective of the information students are using for their decision making process, bu t they do not investigate the actual decision making process students use (Manski, 1993) These weaknesses are limited when a more comprehensive model is used and recent research has demonstrated the advantages of using a combination of sociological and e conomic approaches (Freeman, 1997; Paulsen, 2001; Paulsen & St. John, 2002; L. Perna, 2000a) A significant strength of these combination models is the ability to gain a better understanding of the process for students from different racial/ethnic and eco nomic backgrounds (Paulsen & St. John, 2002) not one particular route leading to college enrollmen t but rather numerous paths students may select. The proposed conceptual model (Figure 2 1) is centered on the human capital investment model premise that college choice decisions are the result of comparing expected benefits with expected costs. Accordi ng to Perna (2006), expected
55 benefits account for both monetary and nonmonetary benefits, while expected costs refer to both the cost of attending a postsecondary institution and lost wages while attending a postsecondary institution. This basic premise, unlike in traditional human capital investment models, is that multiple layers of context influence the decision making process. t rather interactive and fluid throughout the entire college choice process. The four layers include (1) individual habitus, (2) school and community context, (3) higher education context, and (4) social, economic, and policy context. Utilizing the multip allows researchers on college choice to investigate constructs that are present in both economic and sociological models. Additionally, this model recognizes key differences from students from varied backgrounds as th ey navigate the college choice process (Bergerson, 2009; McDonough, 1997) In addition to using multiple approaches in developing her model to be inclusive of the diverse population of students considering postsecondary institutions today, Perna incorpor ated studies done both qualitatively and quantitatively when developing her proposed conceptual model. She noted that many of the early models relied heavily on quantitative data and did not include the introspective data that typically emerges from quali tative data (Bergerson, 2009; L. Perna, 2006) This model also recognized that students have different needs throughout the college choice process and will navigate it at different rates, which was different than previous models that suggested students pa ss through stages in the process at specific times (Bergerson, 2009) Despite not
56 being a linear model like Hossler and Gallagher (1987) or suggesting specific time frames for each layer, Perna still recommends outcomes during the college choice process. For instance, she implies that factors such as saving for college and academically preparing are key factors for a successful college choice process (L. Perna, 2006) impact how rese archers study college choice and allow them to address numerous factors at once that were previously only studied in isolated situations (Engberg & Wolniak, 2009; Steinberg, Piraino, & Haveman, 2008) Layer one The first context, individual habitus, is a and perceptions that develop from the environment a student is associated with on a regular basis. Collectively, these factors then influence the aspirations and attitudes that students have about postsecondary institutions (Bourdieu, 1977; McDonough, 1997) layer one in her model. In particular, this model incorporates the influence of demographic characteristics, cultural capita l, and social capital (L. Perna, 2006) Within demographic characteristics are gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and parental education levels, which are all pertinent to this study. The other two aspects of layer one, cultural and social cap ital, are broad constructs previously addressed and can be difficult to actually measure for a study. It will be important to review how college knowledge and people impacted the college choice process of first generation students.
57 Layer two School and community context is the second layer which suggest that the school and community environment a student is engaged in influences their college choice process (L. Perna, 2006) This impact can improve their likelihood of attending postsecondary institutions, but it may also impede it. School and community context incorporates aspects such as the availability and types of resources available to students and the support mechani sms students can utilize (L. Perna, 2006) Past research has found that many students do not have the opportunity to attend high schools with the necessary resources to successfully pursue college options (Engberg & Wolniak, 2010) which stresses the need to further investigate how the school and community context can influence the college choice process of first generation students. courses influences first generation stu process. Layer three (Perna, 2006). Postsecondary a variety of ways. For example, institutions often provide information to students and their parents that influence whether or not students consider particular institutions. The particular chara cteristics, such as rankings, enrollment size, campus location, etc. can determine whether or not parents or students are interested in gathering more information about certain institutions based on whether or not they are in alignment with (L. Perna, 2006) This study will focus on the
58 type of degree first Layer fo ur economic, and policy facets influence college choice process. Within this layer, Perna (2006) recognizes that college choice must be understood based on factors such as economic conditions influencing students and policies that may support or deter students from considering postsecondary education. Previous models often failed to address how policy implications at both the secondary and postsecondary levels ege choice process and which particular institutions students were able to consider (L. Perna, 2006) This study does aim to provide critical information relevant to current policies affecting the college choice process of students; however, the specific dimensions presented in this layer are beyond the scope of the current study and the dataset utilized. While Perna does separate her model into four specific layers, each layer indirectly and directly influences the context of the other layers. It is im portant to look at the variety of influences on the college choice process, even in studies that only consider one or two of the layers suggested by Perna. Although this model has not been tested or refined in a large number of studies to dates (Bergerson 2009) it is the most relevant model for the purposes of this study. Application of Model to Current Study more robust study to develop and allows the current study to examine multiple contexts that influence first
59 will focus on specific aspects of the conceptual model and highlight the influence of the first two layers on first spirations. To accommodate this instead of the layers indicating a direct influence on co llege choice they instead are directly influencing degree aspirations (Figure 2 2). in a variety of ways; therefore, it felt suitable to use it to examine degree aspirations I view degree aspirations as a critical element in the broad construct of college choice with the process of developing degree aspirations focusing on what type of degree, if any, an individual is interested in pursuing. Previous studies that used Pern examined the intent to study abroad (Salisbury, Umbach, Paulsen, & Pascarella, 2009) whether to borrow money for college (L. W. Perna, 2008) and collaborations between all levels of education (P 20) (Nunez & Oliva, 2009) These studies demonst rated that while Perna developed her model with the intention to study the college choice process, it could be successfully utilized to examine other education related areas. The first layer of the model will be the largest emphasis in this study because of race/ethnicity, parental education, and family income. In addition, layer two will also be addressed to determine the role of high school factors on first generation st model addresses college choice as a whole, this particular study is focusing on the nuanced aspect of degree aspirations. Theoretically, this model provided the best
60 mechanism to study the role of parental involvement on degree aspirations of first generation students. Chapter Summary First generation students are a unique population that continues to increase their numbers in postsecondary institutions. Prior t o entering postsecondary institutions, though, first generation students often differ from their peers in terms of their educational aspirations. These differences in educational aspirations are often connected to their background characteristics, as well as numerous influences including their parents, high schools, and counselors/teachers. The extant research has aspirations; however, limited research exists on the influen ce of parents on first on first generation students as a monolithic group and did not recognize them as a diverse set of students. More recent research has recogniz ed that it is necessary to examine within group differences of first generation students and how these differences influence the college choice process. Early models of college choice often focused on independent characteristics or used linear processes t o describe how students eventually made a decision about pursuing postsecondary education. Additionally, these models did not consider the diverse set of students that is currently aspiring to and attending postsecondary ) proposed conceptual model of college choice recognized these weaknesses and combined both sociological and economical process and allows students from
61 first potential influences, such as parental involvement. Additional research on the influences on first policies and programs that will benefit first generation students as they overcome a variety of obstacles during the development of their col lege choice process.
62 Social, economic, & policy context (layer 4) Demographic characteristics Economic characteristics Public policy characteristics Higher education context (layer 3) Marketing and recruitment Location Institutional characteristics School and community context (layer 2) Availability of resources Types of resources Structural supports and barriers Habitus (layer 1) Demographic characteristics Gender Race/ethnicity Cultural capital Cultural knowledge Value of college attainment Social capital Information about college Assistance with college processes Demand for higher education Expected benefits Academic preparation Monetary Academic achievement Non monetary College Choice Supply of resources Expected costs Family income College costs Financial aid Foregone earnings Figure 2
63 Social, economic, & policy context (layer 4) Demographic characteristics Economic characteristics Public policy characteristics Higher education context (layer 3) Marketing and recruitment Location Institutional characteristics School and community context (layer 2) Availability of resources Types of resources Structural supports and barriers Habitus (layer 1) Demographic characteristics Gender Race/ethnicity Cultural capital Cultural knowledge Value of college attainment Social capital Information about college Assistance with college processes Demand for higher education Expected benefits Academic preparation Monetary Academic achievement Non monetary Degree Aspirations Supply of resources Expected costs Family income College costs Financial aid Foregone earnings Figure 2
64 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY The purpose of this chapter is to describe the research methodology utilized in this study investigating the role of parental involvement on first aspirations. This chapter will revisit the purpose and research questions directing this study. Following the purpose and research questions, this chapter includes a discussion of the data sou rce and sample. The next section will describe the dependent and independent variables used in this study and as necessary operationally defined. Following the discussion of the independent and dependent variables is an overview of the use of secondary da tasets in research studies. Next, the statistical method employed to analyze the independent and dependent variables will be described. Finally, this chapter will conclude with a discussion of the limitations of this study. 06) proposed conceptual model of college choice, decisions. This study will focus specifically on degree aspirations within the college choice process. In particular, this m odel addresses (1) individual habitus, (2) school and community context, (3) higher education context, and (4) social, economic, and models were not comprehensive enou gh to address the changing profile of students entering postsecondary education today. While it would be ideal to address all four layers: individual habitus and scho ol/community context. This decision was made based on the data available and the focus of the research questions.
65 The primary aim of this study is to investigate the role of parental involvement on the degree aspirations of ninth grade first generation students, specifically focused on the type of degree first generation students aspire to earn. There was one primary question guiding this empirical study: What is the relationship between parental/guardian involvement and ninth grade first generation s degree aspirations upon completion of their high school education? Additionally, there was one sub question related to this primary research question: What is the relationship between parental involvement and ninth grade first generation student completion of their high school education? Proposed Hypotheses Based upon the research questions guiding this study, as well as the literature relevant to first ations, the following hypotheses are proposed: First generation students with lower levels of parental involvement are more likely to have lower degree aspirations than first generations students with high levels of parental involvement (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001; L. Perna, 2006) First generation students with lower levels of parental involvement are less likely generation students with high levels of parental involvement (Choy, et al., 2000; L Perna & Titus, 2005; Rowan Kenyon, et al., 2008) There are significant differences in first different demographic characteristics (Bell, et al., 2009; Engle & Tinto, 2008; Ingels & Dalton, 2008; Paulsen & St. J ohn, 2002; Phinney, et al., 2005)
66 Data Source The data analyzed for this study were derived from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09). When this study was conducted, HSLS:09 offered the m ost robust and recent national level data relevant to ninth grade first Starting with the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (NLS:72), the NCES began investigating the transi tion of individuals from their high school experiences to their postsecondary experiences, as well as their post collegiate experiences. The intention of these studies was to gather information about potential factors, such as family, social, and cultural that may influence the development of students at different stages. HSLS:09, which was the fifth installment, was administered during the 2009 2010 school year to ninth grade students located in both private and public high schools that had both a ninth grade and eleventh grade to ensure that a follow up could occur. The first follow up survey will take place in spring 2012 with a subsequent follow up in the summer of 2013. The survey is administered to students, ics and science teachers, and the lead explore the transition plans of students from secondary to postsecondary education and the educational and social factors that influ ence these plans (Ingels et al., 2011) I selected the HSLS:09 dataset as the data source for a variety of reasons. First, this study is focused on the degree aspirations of ninth grade first generation students from the student perspective but also addresses the role of parental involvement. The HSLS:09 was administered to numerous individuals, such as parents and counselors, but most importantly to students. Secondly, a key factor investigated in this study is the
67 influence of parent involvement on these aspirations. Survey questions in the parent survey allowed parental involvement to be examined, which is not always a possibility in other surveys only gathering information from the student perspective. More specifically, HSLS:09 provided the m ost relevant set of variables to investigate parental involvement in degree aspirations. Finally, the HSLS:09 utilized a nationally representative sample allowing for the study to address the research questions in a timely and cost effective manner. Coll ectively, these reasons supported the use of the HSLS:09 to investigate the research questions posed for this study. Ninth grade students attending all types of high schools were targeted for HSLS:09. These high schools included public charter schools, regular public schools, and private schools in the District of Columbia and the 50 states of the United States that provided instruction to students in both the ninth and eleventh grades (Ingels, et al., 2011) NCES sampled 1,889 eligible schools and 944 of these schools participated in the base year study from the original 27,293 eligible schools identified in the sampling frame. From these participating schools, 26,305 students were randomly selected to complete the survey with a final eligible sample of 25,206 students. The target population for students included all ninth grade students who attended study eligible schools in the 2009 fall time period. The sampling frame of students was 4,197,724 (Ingels, et al., 2011) While the HSLS:09 dataset w as available through a public access system, named the Data Analysis System (Hahs Vaughn, 2007) I felt that the restricted use dataset was more robust and a better fit for the study. In particular, the public access dataset often limits the number of var iables available to the user (Hahs Vaughn, 2007)
68 which would have influenced the analysis of this study. Additionally, using the restricted dataset for HSLS:09 would allow me to manipulate variables at a more complex level and conduct more advanced analy sis (Hahs Vaughn, 2007) As a result, I applied for the HSLS:09 restricted data license through NCES in July 2011 and received the restricted data file in December 2011. Sampling Design Most national datasets, such as HSLS:09, do not collect data through simple random sampling but rather through more complex sampling methods including cluster sampling, stratified sampling, or multistage sampling. In addition, many national datasets generate oversampling which may cause problems during the statistical anal ysis stage of the study (Hahs Vaughn, 2005; Hahs Vaughn, McWayne, Bulotsky Shearer, Wen, & Faria, 2011) This oversampling is necessary, though, to ensure that particular individuals are sufficiently represented and included in the statistical analysis (T homas & Heck, 2001) Reviewing the sampling design for the HSLS:09 is critical in order to accurately analyze the data and produce results. The sample for HSLS:09 was collected using a stratified, two stage random sample design (Ingels, et al., 2011) During the first stage, the primary sampling units were defined as schools and there were 27,293 eligible schools included in the sampling frame. In this first stage, HSLS:09 used a stratified probability proportional to size (PPS ) sample of schools (Ing els, et al., 2011) The sampling frame for this first stage was developed from two NCES files. The first file, 2005 06 Common Core of Data, provided the regular public and charter schools and the second file, 2005 06 Private School Universe Survey, provi ded the private schools. A total of 1,973 schools were sampled for the HSLS:09 with 944 schools electing to participate.
69 The second stage of the sampling design was focused on randomly selecting students from the sampled schools and also creating precis e education estimates for eligible students within the four race/ethnicity strata (Hispanic, non Hispanic (NH) Asian, NH Black, and NH Other) (Ingels, et al., 2011) School administrators at eligible schools allowed the collection of student questionnaire s, which resulted in 21,444 eligible students completing the base year survey. The average number of surveys completed at public schools was 28.3, while at private it was 26.1. Students were randomly selected from enrollment lists that were created based on criteria relevant to HSLS:09 and the survey was subsequently administered in school to students using computers. Additional information about the sampling design is available in the HSLS:09 base year data file documentation (Ingels, et al., 2011) D ata Sample The sample used for this study only contained first generation students who were enrolled as ninth grade students at eligible schools during the 2009 10 school year (n=7018). A new variable called FIRSTGEN was developed that combined both varia bles in the original dataset that asked for parent/guardian one and parent/guardian For this study, it was determined that first generation students would be defined as stude to previous studies (Ishitani, 2003) Additionally, I felt this was the clearest way to discern students who may have gained advantages from parents who had earned an associa studying first generation students and the within group differences in this population. As
70 a result, the non first generation students in the sampling frame were omitted from the st Descriptive statistics were conducted after applying the HSLS:09 survey weight variable named W1STUDENT. These resulted were representative at a national level indicating that the sample used represents 1,477,214 first generation st udents with in this study to minimize the oversampling that occurs in the survey design (Hahs Vaughn, 2005; Thomas & Heck, 2001) The following tables highlight key demo graphic variables relevant to this study. As represented in Table 3 1, minimal difference exists in the percentage of first generation male (50.7%) students enrolled in ninth grade during the 2009 2010 school year in comparison to first generation female (49.3%) students enrolled. In regards to race/ethnicity, Table 3 2 depicts that the largest group of first generation students was White (42.6%) followed next by Hispanic (31.2%). The four remaining race/ethnicity groups were smaller and included Black/A frican American (15.1%), Multi racial (7.4%), Asian/Native Hawaiian (2.5%), and American Indian (1.1%). Table 3 3 displays information about the native language of students in the sample. The original variable was re coded to put native language into two groups: English and non English. As Table 3 3 indicates, the majority (76.4%) of first generation stud ents in the ninth grade during the 2009 2010 academic year reported their native language was English while approximately one quarter (23.6%) of students indicated English was not their native language.
71 Another relevant key demographic variable for this study was the estimated income level of the family during 2008. HSLS:09 originally provided 13 different income groups but I re coded this variable to include four different income groups based on the distribution of frequencies. The largest group (52.4% ) indicated that their total income during 2008 was less than $35,000. The next largest group (20.8%) represented an individual with a family income between $35,001 and $55,000. The last two groups represented slightly higher income groups with 13.8% ind icating total family income between $55,001 and $75,000 and 13.0% indicating family income of $75,001 or more. Income groups are reflected in Table 3 4 and display a trend that larger income groups have smaller numbers of first generation students include d. Dependent Variables Two dependent variables were used in this study to examine (a) first generation (b) first ependent variable was recoded to address whether first certain. The second dependent variable was recoded to represent t hree degree options for first Table 3 5 explains these two dependent variables. The first dependent variable focused on whether first generation students perceived they had high school education. The variable named S1ABILITYBA asked students if they think definitely not, ( b) probably not, (c) probably, and (d) definitely. I recoded this variable
72 into two options, Definitely or Not certain, to ascertain which students were very 6 provides frequencies for this depen dent variable and highlights that 40% of first generation ninth grade students in 2009 they finish high school. This dependent variable was used to answer the sub question pr esented earlier in this chapter. The HSLS:09 variable named X 1EDUEXPECT was used to address the primary research question directing this study. This question originally asked students how far in school they thought they would get: (a) less than high sch ool, (b) high school diploma start but not complete a Ph.D., M.D., law degree, or other high level professional degree, (j) complete a Ph.D., M.D., law degree, or other high level professional degree, his variable was recoded into a multinomial categorical variable that divided the responses into three areas based on the whether students foresaw themselves pursuing college or not. The three areas degree or higher. Table 3 7 provides frequencies for this variable and indicates that approximately 22.8% of first generation ninth grade students are not sure what type of degree, if any, they would like to pursue, while 19.1% are considering earning at most a high school degree. Independent Variables
73 model allowed me to organize the indepen dent variables based on the layers of the model. Table 3 8 summarizes the independent variables used in this study. model of college choice with a minor modification is the theoret ical framework guiding this study. Figure 3 1 represents how the independent variables used in this study generation oosing the selected independent variables in this study. The following sections will provide more concrete information and operationally define them within the context of the theoretical framework used in this study. To conduct the necessary analyses for this study, many of the independent variables were recoded into dummy variables and for these variables the reference group is indicated in parentheses. Layer One: Individual Habitus The most prominent layer addressed in this study is layer one: indivi dual habitus. In addition to recognizing that first other key characteristics. The variables addressed in this layer a re assumed to describe the specific variables that developed from layer one of the proposed conceptual model. Demographic characteristics Previous studies have investigated and highlighted how gender and race/ethnicity gender differences in the past decade as women now enter postsecondary institutions
74 and gradu ate at a higher rate than their male counterparts (King, 2000, 2006) (Peter, Horn, & Carroll, 2005) The gender gap continues to be evident for ev ery racial group but is especially prevalent among low income students and students of color (King, 2006) Despite these disparities in enrollment numbers, differences in postsecondary expectations and aspirations based on gender are not always found in r esearch (Blackhurst & Auger, 2008) Therefore, the HSLS:09 variable female 2009 2010 first generation ninth grade students. Past research has suggested that race/ethnicity aspirations and eventual enrollments in postsecondary education. In particular, smaller percentages of Black and Hispanic students eventually enroll in postsecondary institutions than their White peers (L. Perna, 2006) The group that continues to exhibit the largest struggle in gaining access to postsecondary education is Hispanic students (Hurtado, et al., 1997) degree aspiration differences among the five ra cial/ethnic groups: White (reference group), Black/African American, Hispanic, Multi racial, Asian/Native Hawaiian, and American Indian. Cultural capital Cultural capital is an influential aspect in determining the college aspirations of first generation students that warrants further investigation in this study (Pascarella, et al., 2004; Terenzini, et al., 1996) A variety of barriers influence first generation In particular, in comparison to their peers, first generation students are more likely to
75 come from a home where English is not the primary language (Bui, 2002) To address able language spoken in their home. It was recoded as a dichotomous variable with the options English (reference) and non English. Another aspect related to cultural capital is information regarding college. Students with limited information on postsecondary institutions are less likely to attend them (Bell, et al., 2009) so first generation students must seek out other individuals for information. Namely, first gen eration students must pursue the assistance of their counselors (Horn & Nunez, 2000; Saenz, et al., 2007) and peers (L. Perna & Titus, 2005) regarding the college choice process. The second variable connected to cultural capital asked first generation stu dents if they discussed going to college with other individuals. Students were able to answer a variety of questions about individuals (i.e., mother, father, friends, teacher, counselor) they spoke to about going to college. I first combined the mother a nd father survey questions into one variable to reflect whether a child spoke with at least one of his/her parents about college. Next, I created a composite score reflecting the number of individuals a student spoke to about college with the highest numb er being four and the lowest being zero. I dummy coded this composite score defining the reference group as a student who spoke with all available
76 Social capital First generation students often lack the social capital many of their peers experi ence because their parents do not have first hand experience of the college choice process and postsecondary institutions (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) To address the role of parents in the college choice process, I included relevant survey questions in thi s section. The most basic question related to parental involvement that was included in this study was total family income. Typically, first generation students come from homes with lower incomes than their peers (Pascarella, et al., 2004; Terenzini, et al., 1996) asked parents to list their total family income from the previous year. I recoded this variable from the original 13 options to four options: $35,000 or less (low) $35,001 $55,000 (medium low), $55,001 $75,000 (medium high), or $75,001 or greater (high). This variable was dummy coded with the high income group acting as the reference. The HSLS:09 survey asked parents a variety of questions about their involvement meeting, attended a parent teacher organization meeting, attended a scheduled parent teacher conference, attended a class event, served as a volunteer, or met with the s chool counselor. I combined these six questions to create a composite score ranging coded to reflect very involved parents as the reference group who answered yes to at leas t four of the previous questions. The other two groups included parents who were moderately involved (composite score ranged from one to three) and parents who were not involved (composite score was zero).
77 One additional independent variable was included in this study to examine the role of parents in first parents asked parents if they received information about the academic requirements for higher education in the variable labeled Layer Two: School and Community Context school and community contex t. The HSLS:09 provided information about each The primary survey question in this layer addressed the urbanicity of the high school a student attended and was labele (Hamrick & Stage, 2004; Saenz, et al., 2007) I dummy coded the variables to include suburb (reference), city, and rural. The survey or iginally broke rural schools into both rural and town but I combined these two groups to represent rural schools. I also considered including free lunch percentage as an indicator of socioeconomic status of the school, but recent research suggested that t (Harwell & LeBeau, 2010) The second variable representing layer two addresses whether or not a high school has a counselor focused on college readiness. First generation students often seek the advice of their high school counselor throughout the college choice process ( Horn & Nunez, 2000 ; Saenz, et al., 2007 ); however, schools populated with first generation students may be underfunded resulting in counselors focusing their time on issues not related to college guidance (McDonough, 1997)
78 high school has a counselor focused on the college choice process, I selected the HSLS:09 survey question that asked counselors if their high school had a counselor whose focus was college readiness. I dummy coded the variable to include yes (reference) and no. The final variable for layer two represented the curriculum of the school. First generation students often attend schools that have limited course offerings and a less rigorous curriculum (Chen, 2005; Choy, 2001; Warburton, et al., 2001) which may influence their college choice process. To investigate th e high school curriculum, I selected the HSLS:09 variable that asked counselors if their school offered advanced placement courses. The selected variable was dummy coded with yes acting as the reference group and the comparison group no. Cross tabulatio ns of Selected Independent Variables In addition to reviewing the basic descriptive statistics of relevant sample characteristics, examining the cross tabulations of some of the key independent variables highlights additional characteristics of the student sample. The key independent variabl es included in this cross tabulations were chosen because of their relevance to the research questions. The first cross tabulation addresses the frequencies of parent involvement and family income characteristics. Reviewing Table 3 9 suggests that ninth grade first generation students from low income families are more likely to have parents not involved, while students from high income families are more likely to have parents that are involved. Another relevant examination compared the family income ag ainst race/ethnicity A quick review of Table 3 10 highlights that both White and Multi racial students had a much larger percentage of students in the high income and medium high income
79 groups than their peers for within the race/ethnicity groups. Other student groups, namely American Indian, Asian/Native Hawaiian, Black/African American, and Hispanic, were more likely included in the low income group than their Multi racial and White peers. Based on Table 3 10 it appears that first generation students from race/ethnicity groups considered disadvanta ged also typically are from low income groups. Reviewing the differences between parental involvement and race/ethnicity is key because it is critical to recognize that there are differences within the fir st generation student population. Namely, while most racial/ethnic groups fall into the moderately involved category, the Asian/Native Hawaiian population was higher than their peers in the not involved category at 17.2% and lower than their peers in the very involved category at 13.9%. Overall, students from Black/African American backgrounds had the most involved parents at 38.9%. See Table 3 11 for more detailed information. Methodological Considerations It is important to recognize that there are c ertain methodological considerations, which must be addressed that are relevant to this particular study. Fully understanding these challenges is imperative in order to limit any data analysis errors and to provide the strongest possible results. For thi s particular study, the primary methodological concern was the issue of using a secondary dataset. I gathered the information to answer the research questions from the HSLS:09 and while it did match the research questions, it was not collected specificall y for this study. Further investigation into potential problems with analyzing secondary datasets is necessary. Secondary datasets have started to become more popular in higher education research in recent years (Thomas & Heck, 2001) due to the large num ber available and the opportunity to use a robust dataset inexpensively (Strayhorn, 2009) Despite the
80 benefits of using secondary datasets, a variety of disadvantages are inherent in using them (L. Perna & Titus, 2005; Thomas & Heck, 2001) The first di sadvantage is a direct result of the method of data collection (Thomas & Heck, 2001) Specifically, the sampling method in these large, national datasets is typically a complex method, which often causes oversampling of particular characteristics (Hahs Va ughn, 2007; Hahs Vaughn, et al., 2011; Strayhorn, 2009) A second concern with analyzing secondary datasets using complex survey methods is homogeneity that may result from using these non simple random samples (Hahs Vaughn, et al., 2011) Lacking this homogeneity may result in incorrect standard errors also causing Type I errors. To address the non independence issue causing homogeneity, it is helpful to also consider using a normalized weight and specialized software (Hahs Vaughn, et al., 2011; Thoma s & Heck, 2001) I opted to use a normalized weight from the weight provided by the HSLS:09 dataset since the sample only included first generation students and not the entire student population. In addition to the previously aforementioned concerns, anot her concern is that the complex method of sampling causes problems with standard errors. To accommodate this concern, a design effect is typically utilized that allows more accurate standard errors to be reported (Hahs Vaughn, 2005) A design based approach is appropriate in this model since I am focusing on one level of the dataset and treating the sample as one group (Thomas & Heck, 2001) For the analysis of this study, I used a modification available in the analysis software us ed in this study called Complex Samples. Analytical Methods Quantitative methods will be used to address the research questions posed for this study. Data analysis will be conducted in two phases: preliminary and advanced. The
81 initial descriptive find ings of these analyses were presented in this chapter in conjunction with the sample presentation. Additional preliminary analyses and more advanced analyses will be presented in the following chapter. The preliminary data analysis presented in this ch apter highlighted key descriptive statistics and frequencies between relevant independent variables. Descriptive statistics were also conducted on the two selected dependent variables to determine the frequencies of the particular types of degree aspirati ons and perceived confidence in the ability to complete a b Conducting these basic descriptive statistics provided insights into what types of degrees 2009 2010 first generation students were considering, as w ell as whether or school. The additional preliminary analyses presented in the next chapter will focus on cross tabulations using chi squares between select independent variables and the two dependent variables. Chi square tests are some of the most common statistical analyses in social science research (Franke, Ho, & Christie, 2011) but researchers must be careful to appropriately interpret the results. This study will present chi square analyses in chapter four to examine potential differences between the two dependent variables and select independent variables. These findings will demonstrate whether further analyses are necessary. Chi square tests are typically uti lized to examine independence across two categorical variables (Field, 2009; Franke, et al., 2011) but can also be used to examine the goodness of fit for a particular sample in relation to the distribution of a
82 known population (Franke, et al., 2011) A dditionally, the chi square tests of homogeneity would assess whether two or more independent samples differ in their distributions on a single variable of interest (Franke, et al., 2011) The chi squares presented in the beginning of chapter four will de termine whether the particular groups in the dependent variables differ based on selected independent variables. Advanced data analysis included two multivariate logistic regression models, which allowed both of the research questions to be addressed. The primary research question investigated potential factors that influenced first or above), which was a multinomial categorical variable. The use of the second dependent variable allows this question to be sufficiently answered using a multinomial logistic regression (Agresti, 2002) Before conducing either of the logistic regression models, though, the dataset needed to have a design me thod applied to it in order to account for the complex sample issues, such as biased parameter estimates. I decided to specifically use the Taylor series approximation, which applies a weight to account for potentially unequal selection probability and al so incorporates strata and cluster variables (Hahs Vaughn, et al., 2011) The Taylor series approximation allows consistent variance estimates for nonlinear statistics to be gathered when complex surveys are used in studies (Williams, 2000) Specifically the Taylor series approximation converts a ratio into an approximation that does not use ratio; however, it uses a function of sums of sample values. The Taylor series approximation is one of the most common methods to estimate sample variances when com plex sample designs are involved (Groves et al.,
83 2009) In order to accurately apply the Taylor series approximation, I used the SPSS 20 add taking into consideration if they w ere stratified or clustered sampling (Hahs Vaughn, et al., 2011; IBM, 2011) The sub research question used a dichotomous categorical variable since it complete a ba appropriately answer this question and was answered using a binary logistic regression (Long, 1997) As a result of having multinomial and dichotomous categorical dependent variables and multip le independent variables, the most appropriate statistical technique was logistic regression. It is recommended to use logistic regression in studies where the outcome variable is categorical and the independent variables are categorical or continuous (Ag resti, 2002; Peng, Lee, & Ingersoll, 2002) The independent variables used in this study were organized into four blocks and added to the baseline model to be regressed against each of the dependent variables (Table 3 12). Using this blocked entry meth od allowed me to group the selected independent variables based upon the selected theoretical framework used in this independent variables to be grouped by the layers and the contexts influencing first generation students. The theoretical model used for this study with a binary dependent variable relies on the following assumptions starting with Equation3.1 for a binary logistic regression: (3.1)
84 I developed an odds ratio equation to examine the odds ratio between two given events. That is, the odds of a student being certain that they w equation, I included the logit model to illustrate this odds ratio into a function that ranges from to as presented in Equation 3.2. (3.2) For this study, I applied the binary outcome regression model for this multivariate regression equation as presented in Equation 3.3 For the next model, I used a multinomial outcome variable for three potential outcomes. That is, a student can aspire to finish high school, complete a college degree, or not be sure about plans. In this instance, these three o ptions are not equivalent and thus may be influenced by particular predictor variables. Therefore, I assumed that the probabilities of the outcomes are reflected in the following Equation 3.4. (3.4) For this study, I applied the multino mial outcome regression model for this multivariate regression Equation 3.5.
85 Regression Diagnostics In order to determine the appropriateness of the regression models used in this study, regression diagnostics were performed. When running the regression models for each respective dependent variable, a goodness of fit test was included to determine how well the model fit with the inclusion of the relevant dependent variables and independent variables. For the first dependent variable, the model was found statistically s ignificant ( ). The second dependent variable was also found statistically significant These findings indicate that the models used in this study were appropriate for the selected variables of inter est. Prior to running the full models, I determined the appropriate regression assumptions were met and removed any variables that had large missing data. Limitations of Study The primary limitation of this study was related to the self reported nature of many of the variables used during data analysis. These self reported variables, both from students and parents, may cause bias in statistical analysis because individuals may not always recall accurate estimates or they may answer based on what they th ink is expected. In addition to being self reported, the survey was administered to students
86 during the fall of their ninth grade year. Ninth grade students may be adjusting to new high schools and the idea of college may not be a priority or a focus, so surveying them at this age about degree aspirations might be too early in their college choice process. Interpreting the variables that are self reported must be done so under a nuanced perspective and understanding that these items were indeed self repor ted. Another limitation of this study is that like most NCES datasets, HSLS:09 is a cross sectional dataset and not longitudinal. As a result of using a cross sectional dataset, I could not compare trends over time or if aspirations changed as students g ot closer to time that would actually go to college. The findings for this study then are only representative of ninth grade first generation students during the 2009 2010 academic year. As previously stated, using secondary data limited the application of the variables to the selected theoretical framework. While the selected HSLS:09 survey questions were sufficient to answer the research questions posed in this study, the selected questions needed to be carefully chosen and modified to appropriately an swer the research questions. In addition, the use of secondary data limited the applicable layers be addressed in the findings. Although the HSLS:09 dataset was the most robust and current dataset available at the time of this study, it was not a perfect match since the survey questions were not composed specifically for the research questions for th is study or the theoretical framework utilized.
87 Another limitation related to the use of this particular dataset was the issue of missing data. In particular, certain variables were omitted from the final model due to having a high number of missing data. This study employed listwise deletion, which deletes cases that have any missing values from the analysis (Schlomer, Bauman, & Card, 2010) This method was the default method in the statistical software used for this study and recommend for the complex samples methodology. Listwise deletion is still considered a viable solution for missing data, especially when the percentage of missing cases is kept minimal (Graham, 2009) Despite using listwise deletion, this study needed to exclude variables due to missing data. Additionally, it should be noted that the chi squares used weights to account for sampling and non response bias, but did not ac count for clustering effects. Finally, this survey was conducted in the fall of 2009 which was when the United decisions to pursue postsecondary education and what type of degree was i mportant to earn. All the findings of this study must be interpreted within the context of the time at which this survey was administered. If this survey would have been administered prior Chapter Summary This chapter provided an overview of the methodology that will be utilized to guide this study and answer the selected research questions. The purpose of this study is to examine the role of parental involvement on the degree aspirations of first generation students. After presenting the research questions again, this chapter provided an overview of the data source and sample that will be employed to make conclusions about these research questions. An overview of the independent and dependent
88 variables within the context of the theoretical framework was presented and the chapter concluded with an explanation of the analytic methods to be used and potential limitations of this study.
89 Table 3 1. Frequency of gender (n=7018) Gender Frequency Percent Male 3556 50.7 Female 3462 49.3 Table 3 2. Frequency of race/ethnicity (n=7018) Race/ethnicity Frequency Percent White 2990 42.6 Hispanic 2192 31.2 Black/African American 1061 15.1 Multi racial 520 7.4 Asian/Native Hawaiian 178 2.5 American Indian 78 1.1 Table 3 3. Frequency of native language (n=7014) Native language Frequency Percent English 5356 76.4 Non English 1658 23.6 Table 3 4. Frequency of family income levels (n=7018) Income range Frequency Percent Less than or equal to $35,000 3678 52.4 Between $35,001 and $55,000 1462 20.8 Between $55,001 and $75,000 965 13.8 Greater than $75,000 913 13.0 Table 3 5. Summary of dependent variables HSLS:09 Source Variable Variable Type Scale Confidence in perceived ability to complete a b S1ABILITYBA Dichotomous dummy Recoded: Definitely, Not certain Aspirations X1STUEDEXPCT Categorical dummy Recoded: unknown; high school level; college level ( a higher) Table 3 6. Confidence in completing b Frequency Percent Definitely 2690 40.0 Not certain 4034 60.0
90 Table 3 7. Frequency Percent Unknown 1578 22.8 High school level 1325 19.1 4031 58.1 Table 3 8. Summary of independent variables and indices Items Variable Type Scale Layer Corresponding Model Gender Dichotomous dummy Male (reference), Female 1 Race/ethnicity Categorical dummy White (reference), Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Multi racial, Asian, Indian 1 English as a primary language Dichotomous dummy Recoded: English (reference), non English 1 Student talked to individuals about college Categorical dummy High discussions (reference), moderate discussions, no discussion 1 Total family income Categorical dummy Recoded: $35,000 or less (low), $35,000 $55,000 (medium), $55,000 $75,000 (Medium high), $75,000 or greater (high) (Reference) 1 Parent involvement Categorical dummy Very involved (reference), moderately involved, not involved 1 Parents received information about academic requirements for higher education Dichotomous dummy Yes (reference), no 1 High school urbanicity Categorical dummy Suburb (reference), city, rural 2 High school had counselor focused on college readiness Dichotomous dummy Yes (reference), no 2 High school offered AP courses Dichotomous dummy Yes (reference), no 2
91 Table 3 9. Cross tabulations of family income and parent involvement Not Involved Moderately Involved Very Involved Low Income Frequency 411 1865 957 % within Income 12.7 57.7 29.6 % within Parent Involvement 66.7 51.3 48.7 Medium low Income Frequency 103 812 393 % within Income 7.9 62.1 30.0 % within Parent Involvement 16.7 22.3 20.0 Medium high Income Frequency 47 515 305 % within Income 5.4 59.4 35.2 % within Parent Involvement 7.6 14.2 15.5 High Income Frequency 55 445 311 % within Income 6.8 54.9 38.3 % within Parent Involvement 8.9 12.2 15.8
92 Table 3 10. Cross tabulations of family income and race/ethnicity American Indian Asian /Native Hawaiian Black /African American Hispanic Multi Racial White Low Income Frequency 55 107 799 1378 230 1109 % within Income 1.5 2.9 21.7 37.5 6.3 30.2 % within Race/ethnicity 70.5 60.5 75.4 62.9 44.1 37.1 Medium low Income Frequency 14 25 132 486 122 682 % within Income 1.0 1.7 9.0 33.3 8.4 46.7 % within Race/ethnicity 17.9 14.1 12.5 22.2 23.4 22.8 Medium high Income Frequency 6 30 89 178 90 573 % within Income 0.6 3.1 9.2 18.4 9.3 59.3 % within Race/ethnicity 7.7 16.9 8.4 8.1 17.3 19.2 High Income Frequency 3 15 40 150 79 626 % within Income 0.3 1.6 4.4 16.4 8.7 68.6 % within Race/ethnicity 3.8 8.5 3.8 6.8 15.2 20.9
93 Table 3 11. Cross tabulations of parent involvement and Race/ethnicity American Indian Asian /Native Hawaiian Black /African American Hispanic Multi Racial White Not Involved Frequency 5 26 68 266 33 216 % within Parent involvement 0.8 4.2 11.1 43.3 5.4 35.2 % within Race/ethnicity 7.9 17.2 7.7 13.4 7.3 8.1 Moderately Involved Frequency 45 104 473 1164 268 1582 % within Parent involvement 1.2 2.9 13.0 32.0 7.4 43.5 % within Race/ethnicity 71.4 68.9 53.4 58.8 59.0 59.0 Very Involved Frequency 13 21 344 550 153 884 % within Parent involvement 0.7 1.1 17.5 28.0 7.8 45.0 % within Race/ethnicity 20.6 13.9 38.9 27.8 33.7 33.0
94 Table 3 12. Summary of multivariate logistic regression models Block 1 Block 2 Block 3 Block 4 Demographic characteristics Gender X X X X Race/ethnicity X X X X Cultural capital English primary language X X X Student talked to individuals about college X X X Social capital Family income X X Parent involvement X X Parent gathered information about college admissions X X School context High school urbanicity X Counselor focused on college readiness X High school offers advanced placement courses X
95 Social, economic, & policy context (layer 4) Demographic characteristics Economic characteristics Public policy characteristics Higher education context (layer 3) Marketing and recruitment Location Institutional characteristics School and community context (layer 2) Availability of resources Types of resources Structural supports and barriers Habitus (layer 1) Demographic characteristics Gender Race/ethnicity Cultural capital Cultural knowledge Value of college attainment Social capital Information about college Assistance with college processes Demand for higher education Expected benefits Academic preparation Monetary Academic achievement Non monetary Degree Aspirations Supply of resources Expected costs Family income College costs Financial aid Foregone earnings Figure 3
96 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS The purpose of this chapter is to present the findings from the data analyses that were conducted to investigate the primary research question and the sub research question guiding this study. The preliminary findings presented in this chapter include results comparing the two dependent variables against select i ndependent variables. Next, more advanced statistical analyses were conducted and the results of the logistic regression for each of the dependent variables are presented. This chapter concludes with highlights of the results from the data analyses. Prel iminary Data Analyses The preliminary data analyses included several chi square analyses to determine if there were any statistically significant differences between three key independent variables for both dependent variables. The key independent variab les selected for these analyses include race/ethnicity, family income, and level of parental involvement The three independent variables and the dependent variables selected for the preliminary analyses are all categorical variables; therefore, chi square tests were used to examine independence or association between the variables. The variables for the chi square test are from a single sample and therefore the test of independence is appropriate (Franke, et al., 2011) As a result of using th e chi square test, results will degree aspirations for each level of the independent variables. The results of the three chi square tests and the frequencies are presented in the following sections.
97 The first dependent variable examined how certain ninth grade first generation degree. Each chi square test will be presented along with the frequencies of the respected variables. Race/ethnicity The first chi square (Table 4 1) investigated expected outcomes between ninth grade first gro ups for this study included American Indian, Asian/Native Hawaiian, Black/African American, Hispanic, Multi racial, and White students. Findings indicated that of all race/ethnic groups, Black/African American students had the highest percentage of studen ts within their group to indicate they were certain they would complete a certain they woul square findings were statistically significant ( p .001) suggesting that differences in certainty in chance (Tabl e 4 1). Family income The second chi square (Table 4 2) analysis examined the expected outcomes between first low, medium high, ults of this chi square analysis were statistically significant ( .001) and suggested that
98 tudents of ninth grade first generation from families earning $35,000 or less only 37.8% indicated that they families earning $75,001 or more were certain they would complete a (Table 4 2). Finally, across all income groups, a majority of these ninth grade first Parental involvement The final chi square analysis (Table 4 3) cond ucted on dependent variable one examined parental involvement (i.e. not involved, moderately involved, and very degree of certainty chance ( .001). In particular, the results highlighted that for within involvement groups only 33.1% of ninth grade first generation students whose parents were not involved indicated they ree, while the remaining 66.9% generation students with parents who are very involved, only 44.5 indicated they were ating they were not certain 3). Dependent Variable 2: Degree Aspirations The second set of chi square analyses were conducted on the second dependent variable focused on degree aspirations and the same se lected independent variables as used in for the previous analysis. The following sections will present the chi square results and frequencies.
99 Race/ethnicity The first chi square analysis (Table 4 4) was conducted on expected outcomes between ninth grade first pursuing a particular degree. The results of this chi square analysis were statistically significant ( .001) indicating that the differences in degree aspirations between di fferent racial/ethnic groups were not due to chance. The results (Table 4 4) indicated that within the Multi racial student group approximately 65.7% were more likely to indicate aspirations to earn a college degree (65.7%). This group had the highest per centage of students compared other student groups (i.e. Black/African American students (61.0%) and White students (59%)). American Indian students had the lowest within group percentage (39.7%) to indicate they aspired to earn an gher. Family income The second chi square (Table 4 5) analysis examined expected outcomes between ninth grade first of aspiring towards a particular degree. This chi square analysis provided r esults that were statistically significant ( .001) indicating that differences in degree aspirations between income groups were not due to chance. Within the group of low family income, 23.4% of these ninth grade first generation students aspired to earn at most a high school degree (23.4%). Other within group findings had smaller percentages of students aspiring to earn at most a high school diploma. Ninth grade first generation students who represented the high income group had 68.5% o f students low and medium high groups approximately 62% and 61% respectively aspired to earn an
100 generation st udents from 5). Parental involvement The final chi square analysis (Table 4 6) examined the expected outcomes academic degree. The findings of this chi square analysis were statistically significant ( .001) and generally indicated that the more parents were involved the higher level of degree students aspired to earn. Ninth grade first generation students degree o r higher than be unsure of their future plans or only aspire for a high school diploma. Specifically, 61.8% of students with very involved parents indicated a generation students w hose parents were not involved, only 55% of this group aspired to earn an were moderately involved, approximately 25% of this group was not sure about their educational as pirations, which was the highest percentage in comparison to any other group (Table 4 6). Advanced Data Analysis I conducted two multivariate regression analyses to address the research questions guiding this study. In this section, I will first present the results of the binary logistic regression that was used to examine the level of confidence in ninth grade first regression model results addressing the role of parent al involvement on ninth grade first
101 I conducted a binary logistic regression to address the sub research question. This research question involved the first dependent variable that asked students if they The overall model was found to be significant ( F=7.341, 346; p .001) and had a Nagelkerke pseudo R squared of .0 completion model will be presented using the final block, which controlled for all independent variables. The coefficients will be presented using the expected and converting them into odds ratio (Tabl e 4 7). The first block of this study examined the demographic variables of ninth grade first generation students to determine how confident they were in completing a gender a nd race/ethnicity. Within the first block of student demographic variables, the only variable found to be significant was Black/African American students ( = .457, p .01). The results indicate that Black/African American ninth grade first generation stud than their White peers when all other variables were controlled. Also, there were no The s econd block of variables examined the cultural capital of students, which block examined how discussions with others about college influenced ninth grade first generation variables were controlled, students who had no discussions with others about college had 226% higher odds ( =1.181, p .001) of not being confident in completing a
102 than students who had high discussions with others. Similarly, students who had moderate discussions had 48% higher odds ( =.394, p .01) of not discussions with others about goi ng to college, when all other variables were controlled. Social capital was measured in the third block of variables with a heightened focus on the role of parents. First, income was examined and it was found that low income students had 35% higher odds ( =.299, p .05) than students from a high all other variables were controlled. The only other variable found to be significant in this block examined whether or not parents had information about college. For students whose parents did not have any information about college, they had 29% higher odds ( =.257, p ninth grade first generation students whose parents did have information about college, when all other variables are controlled. The other income variables (i.e., m edium low income and medium high income) and both parental involvement variables were not found significant in these results. The final bock of variables focuses on the school context of first generation conceptual model of college choice. The only significant variable found that when all other variables are controlled, students who attend a high school where no counselor is specifically focused on college readiness had 20% higher odds ( =.185, p .01) of not
103 other variables in this block that examined the location of the school and whether AP courses were offered were not found significant r In the next regression model I conducted a multinomial logistic regression to address the primary research question, which investigated the type of degree ninth grade first ( F=9.384, 329; p .001) and the Nagelkerke pseudo R squared was .095. I will present the results of the second model using only the final block, which controlled for all independent variables. The coefficients will be presented using the expected and interpreted in terms of the odds ratio. Three separate tables will be presented due to the different comparisons examined. The first comparison presented will compare ninth grade first generation students who were not sure about their future degree aspirations 8). The second comparison will com pare ninth grade first generation students who aspire to earn at most a high school diploma against students aspiring at minimum an 9). The third and final comparison presented will compare ninth grade first generation students who aspire to earn at most a high school diploma against those who are not sure about their degree aspirations beyond high school (Table 4 10).
104 Comparison I: Comparison between students not sure about future plans beyond high school and students planning to pursue a college education That is, female first generation ninth graders compar ed to their male peers did not have differences in degree aspirations. Similarly, students of color first generation students compared to their White peers did not indicate having different degree aspirations (Table 4 8). The second block of variables in vestigated whether ninth grade first generation their preference about whether they did not know their future degree plans compared to their desire to pursue some type of c ollege degree. The variables investigating ninth grade first significant when comparing students who indicated not being sure about future degree plans compared to those who were planni ng on pursuing some type of college degree. Specifically, when all other variables were controlled, students who did not talk to anyone about college had 389% higher odds ( =1.586, p .001) than students who had high discussions with others to indicate the y were not sure about future degree aspirations than to choose at minimum they planned on pursuing a college degree. Similarly, students who had moderate discussions with others had 112% higher odds ( =.752, p .001) than students with high discussions wit h others to indicate they were not sure about future degree aspirations than to indicate they planned on pursuing some type of college degree, when all other variables were controlled. Native language was not found to be significant in this model.
105 The t hird block of variables examined the role of parents on ninth grade first generation students to be unsure of future degree aspirations compared to pursuing some type of college degree (Table 4 8). Two of the income variables were found significant in thi s block. First, when controlling for all other variables, students from families with low incomes had 58% higher odds ( =.457, p .01) compared to students from families with high incomes to indicate they were unsure about future degree aspirations than to pursue some type of college degree. Additionally, students from families with medium high incomes had 70% higher odds ( =.531, p .001) than students from families with high incomes to indicate they did not know their future degree plans compared to pursu ing a college degree, when all other variables were controlled. The last significant variable in this social capital block found that when all other variables are controlled for, students who had parents who did not have any information about college admi ssions criteria had 35% higher odds ( =.299, p .01) of not being sure about future college plans than students who indicated they would examined no parent involvement and mod erate parent involvement in comparison to the reference group of high parental involvement were not found significant. Additionally, students from families with medium low income were not found to be significantly different in comparison to students from families with high income in this comparison. The last block of variables examined school characteristics effects and how they compared students who were not sure about future plans against those interested in going to college. When all other variables w ere controlled, students who attended a rural school had 31% higher odds ( =.268, p .01) than students attending a suburban
106 school to indicate they were not sure about future college plans than to pursue an that looked at counselors focused on college readiness and whether high schools offered AP courses were found not significant. Comparison II: Comparison between first generation ninth grade students interested in only a high school diploma and students pl anning to pursue college education The first block of variables examined demographic characteristics between students interested in pursuing college and those interested in only a high school diploma (Table 4 nt when all other variables were controlled. Specifically, female students had 31% lower odds ( = .372, p .001) than males to indicate they were only interested in pursuing a high school other variables are controlled. There was one racial/ethnic student group that was found significant in this block. In particular, when all other variables are controlled, American Indian students had 137% higher odds ( =.865, p .05) than White students to indicate a preference to only pursue a high school diploma compared to pursuing a college degree. No other student racial/ethnic groups had significant differences in this model. The second block of variables in this second comparison investigated c ultural capital variables. The only significant variable in this block examined the role of ninth variables were controlled, students who did not talk to other people about college had 363% higher odds ( =1.533, p .001) than students who talked to many people about college to indicate a preference to pursue only a high school diploma instead of pursuing a college degree. Finally, a first guage was not
107 found to be significant in their preference to pursue a high school diploma over a college degree. in this second comparison between student groups. When controlling for all other variables, students from low income families had 129% higher odds ( =.827, p .001) than students from high income families to select pursuing a high school diploma over pursuing a college degree. None of the remaining social capital variables in this block dditionally, all of the variables in block four that examine school related factors were not significant in this model. Comparison III: Comparison between first generation ninth grade students interested in only a high school diploma and students who a re not sure about future degree plans beyond high school In this final comparison model, only two of the independent variables from all four blocks were found significant (Table 4 10). In the demographic variable block, only first generation ninth grade females were significantly different and in the school characteristic block only a high school located in a rural environment was significant different. Specifically, when all other variables are controlled, female students had 46% lower odds ( = .606, p .001) than their male peers to indicate they were only interested in pursuing a high school diploma compared to not being sure about their degree aspirations. Additionally, students who attended a high school located in a rural environment had 29% lower o dds ( = .344, p .05) than students attending a school in a suburban environment to indicate they were only interested in pursuing a high school diploma rather than not being sure about their future degree aspirations. As previously stated, none of the oth er variables in all four blocks were significant in this comparison
108 of student groups (i.e. students only completing a high school degree versus students who were unsure about educational plans beyond high school). Chapter Summary This chapter presented fi ndings from preliminary findings that focused on the cross tabulations of the dependent variables against select independent variables. Additionally, this chapter also presented the findings of both logistic multivariate regression models. Together these results were used to address the research questions guiding this study. The preliminary data results did find statistically significant race/ethnicity, family income level, and level of parental involvement. Additionally, the preliminary results also confirmed that statistically significant differences do exist in ninth grade first income level, and level of parental involvement. Overall, the results indicated that students from lower income families with less parental involvement within certain underrepresented racial/ethnic groups are often not confident in completing their d may not aspire to complete a college degree. These results provided the impetus for doing more advanced analysis. The advanced analyses presented one binary logistic multivariate regression and one multinomial logistic multivariate regression. It was found that variables such as discussing college with others, family income, parent information on college, counselor focus at high school and race/ethnicity are associated with a ninth grade first generation degree when other variables are controlled. In terms of degree aspirations, variables such as race/ethnicity, discussing college with others, family income, parent information on college, high school location,
109 and gender are associated with first generati chapter will expand on the discussion of these statistical findings within the context of the theoretical framework used in this study and the extant literature.
110 Table 4 1. Frequencies of r ace/ethnicit Not Certain Certain American Indian Frequency 46 18 % within Race/ethnicity 71.9 28.1 % within Degree certainty 1.1 0.7 Asian/Native Hawaiian Frequency 100 7 0 % within Race/ethnicity 58.8 41.2 % within Degree certainty 2.5 2.6 Black/African American Frequency 485 507 % within Race/ethnicity 48.9 51.1 % within Degree certainty 12 18.9 Hispanic Frequency 1321 768 % within Race/ethnicity 63.2 36.8 % within Degree certainty 58.2 41.8 Multi racial Frequency 294 211 % within Race/ethnicity 58.2 41.8 % within Degree certainty 7.3 7.8 White Frequency 1789 1115 % within Race/ethnicity 61.6 38.4 % within Degree certainty 44.3 41.5 Note : Table 4 2. Frequencies of family income Not Certain Certain $35,000 or less (low) Frequency 2169 1317 % within income 62.2 37.8 % within Degree certainty 53.8 48.9 $35,001 $55,000 (medium low) Frequency 833 586 % within income 58.7 41.3 % within Degree certainty 20.6 21.8 $55,001 $75,000 (medium high) Frequency 550 387 % within income 58.7 41.3 % within Degree certainty 13.6 14.4 $75,001 or greater (high) Frequency 482 401 % within income 54.6 45.4 % within Degree certainty 11.9 14.9 Note:
111 Table 4 3. Frequencies of parental involvement Not Certain Certain Not involved Frequency 392 194 % within parental involvement 66.9 33.1 % within Degree certainty 11 8.1 Moderately involved Frequency 2123 1362 % within parental certainty 60.9 39.1 % within Degree certainty 59.7 57 Very involved Frequency 1040 834 % within parental involvement 55.5 44.5 % within Degree certainty 29.3 34.9 Note: Table 4 4. Frequencies of race/ethnicity and degree aspirations Don't know High School Associate's or higher American Indian Frequency 18 29 31 % within Race/ethnicity 23.1 37.2 39.7 % within Degree Aspirations 1.1 2.2 0.8 Asian/Native Hawaiian Frequency 56 21 97 % within Race/ethnicity 32.2 12.1 55.7 % within Degree Aspirations 3.5 1.6 2.4 Black/African American Frequency 206 204 642 % within Race/ethnicity 19.6 19.4 61.0 % within Degree Aspirations 13 15.4 15.9 Hispanic Frequency 516 484 1153 % within Race/ethnicity 24 22.5 53.6 % within Degree Aspirations 32.7 36.5 28.6 Multi racial Frequency 103 74 339 % within Race/ethnicity 19.9 14.3 65.7 % within Degree Aspirations 6.5 5.6 8.4 White Frequency 680 513 1770 % within Race/ethnicity 22.9 17.3 59.7 % within Degree Aspirations 43.1 38.7 43.9 Note:
112 Table 4 5. Frequencies of family income and degree aspirations Don't know High School Associate's or higher $35,000 or less (low) Frequency 842 845 1931 % within income 23.3 23.4 53.4 % within Degree Aspirations 53.3 63.8 47.9 $35,001 $55,000 (medium low) Frequency 322 233 892 % within income 22.3 16.1 61.6 % within Degree Aspirations 20.4 17.6 22.1 $55,001 $75,000 (medium high) Frequency 248 128 586 % within income 25.8 13.3 60.9 % within Degree Aspirations 15.7 9.7 14.5 $75,001 or greater (high) Frequency 167 119 623 % within income 18.4 13.1 68.5 % within Degree Aspirations 10.6 9.0 15.5 Note: Table 4 6. Frequencies of parent involvement and degree aspirations Don't know High School Associate's or higher Not involved Frequency 131 138 329 % within parental involvement 21.9 23.1 55.0 % within Degree Aspirations 9.2 11.9 9.2 Moderately involved Frequency 889 681 2028 % within parental involvement 24.7 18.9 56.4 % within Degree Aspirations 62.3 58.9 57.0 Very involved Frequency 406 337 1201 % within parental involvement 20.9 17.3 61.8 % within Degree Aspirations 28.5 29.2 33.8 Note:
113 Table 4 7. Results for binary logistic multivariate regression model for the certainty of Variable name (reference group) Beta Exp(B) Std. Error Demographic Characteristics Female (male) .072 .931 .081 American Indian (White) .251 1.285 .379 Asian/Native Hawaiian (White) .369 .306 .360 Black/African American .457** .633 .151 Hispanic (White) .161 .851 .120 Multi racial (White) .160 .852 .123 Cultural Capital English not primary language (Yes) .350 1.419 .180 No discussions with others about college (High discussions) 1.181*** 3.257 .218 Moderate discussions with others about college (High discussions) .394** 1.483 .143 Social capital Low income (high) .299* 1.348 .123 Medium low income (high) .143 1.154 .153 Medium high income (high) .211 1.235 .146 No parent involvement (high) .292 1.339 .158 Moderate parent involvement (high) .113 1.119 .081 No parent information about college (Yes) .257** 1.293 .099 School context City school (suburban) .165 .848 .112 Rural school (suburban) .113 1.119 .071 No counselor focused on college readiness (Yes) .185* 1.203 .087 No AP courses offered (Yes) .003 1.003 .109
114 Table 4 8 Results for multinomial logistic multivariate regression model comparing aspirations for not sure against pursuing some type of college degree Variable name (reference group) Beta Exp(B) Std. Error Demographic Characteristics Female (male) .234 1.264 .126 American Indian (White) .395 1.484 .228 Asian/Native Hawaiian (White) .234 .791 .410 Black/African American .095 1.099 .218 Hispanic (White) .035 1.036 .250 Multi racial (White) .279 .757 .156 Cultural Capital English not primary language (Yes) .291 1.337 .265 No discussions with others about college (High discussions) 1.586*** 4.886 .254 Moderate discussions with others about college (High discussions) .752*** 2.121 .192 Social capital Low income (high) .457** 1.579 .145 Medium low income (high) .273 1.313 .145 Medium high income (high) .531 *** 1.700 .162 No parent involvement (high) .139 .870 .189 Moderate parent involvement (high) .130 1.139 .123 No parent information about college (Yes) .299** 1.349 .113 School context City school (suburban) .091 1.096 .128 Rural school (suburban) .268** 1.307 .100 No counselor focused on college readiness (Yes) .110 1.117 .099 No AP courses offered (Yes) .165 1.180 .243
115 Table 4 9. Results for multinomial logistic multivariate regression model comparing aspirations for pursuing high school against pursuing some type of college degree Variable name (reference group) Beta Exp(B) Std. Error Demographic Characteristics Female (male) .372*** .689 .108 American Indian (White) .865* 2.374 .401 Asian/Native Hawaiian (White) .462 .630 .452 Black/African American .066 1.068 .171 Hispanic (White) .249 1.283 .201 Multi racial (White) .286 .751 .186 Cultural Capital English not primary language (Yes) .073 1.075 .257 No discussions with others about college (High discussions) 1.533*** 4.633 .247 Moderate discussions with others about college (High discussions) .300 1.350 .245 Social capital Low income (high) .827*** 2.285 .164 Medium low income (high) .304 1.355 .177 Medium high income (high) .325 1.384 .210 No parent involvement (high) .128 1.136 .216 Moderate parent involvement (high) .140 1.151 .127 No parent information about college (Yes) .183 1.201 .125 School context City school (suburban) .239 .787 .143 Rural school (suburban) .077 .926 .117 No counselor focused on college readiness (Yes) .007 .993 .095 No AP courses offered (Yes) .060 .818 .260
116 Table 4 10. Results for multinomial logistic multivariate regression model comparing aspirations for pursuing high school against not sure about future degree aspirations Variable name (reference group) Beta Exp(B) Std. Error Demographic Characteristics Female (male) .606*** .545 .160 American Indian (White) .470 1.600 .503 Asian/Native Hawaiian (White) .228 .796 .433 Black/African American .029 .972 .243 Hispanic (White) .214 1.239 .216 Multi racial (White) .008 .992 .221 Cultural Capital English not primary language (Yes) .218 .804 .200 No discussions with others about college (High discussions) .053 .948 .292 Moderate discussions with others about college (High discussions) .452 .636 .301 Social capital Low income (high) .370 1.448 .209 Medium low income (high) .031 1.032 .221 Medium high income (high) .206 .814 .269 No parent involvement (high) .267 1.306 .192 Moderate parent involvement (high) .010 1.010 .124 No parent information about college (Yes) .116 .891 .150 School context City school (suburban) .330 .719 .169 Rural school (suburban) .344* .709 .134 No counselor focused on college readiness (Yes) .117 .890 .127 No AP courses offered (Yes) .106 .900 .284
117 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION This study will discuss the results previously presented in Chapter four based on (2006) proposed conceptual model of college choice, which guided this study. To achieve this, this chapter will first review the original purpose of this study and the research questions that guided this study. Next, the findings will be discussed withi n the context of the extant research on first generation students and the college choice process. Within the discussion of the findings, ideas for future research will be introduced but will be further elaborated upon in the next chapter. These findings will be presented based on the layers and sections of the conceptual framework used in this study. This chapter will then conclude with an overview of the finding from this study. Summary of Study Contributions This empirical study adds to the extant lite rature on first college choice process and more specifically expands on factors that influence first current literature by examining potential diff erences existing within the first generation student population and recognizing that the first generation student population is not a monolithic group but rather a heterogeneous population. Furthermore, this study provides insights into the factors that i nfluence first decision making process with postsecondary degree aspirations and post high school educational planning. Overall, this st udy contributes to the literature by identifying factors that influence first
118 findings to an area that has a dearth of empirical evidence on this increasingly heterogeneous group of first generat ion students. Review of Purpose and Research Questions First generation students continue to see increases in their access to postsecondary institutions (Choy, 2001; Strayhorn, 2006) and it is estimated that approximately 30% of students enrolled in pos tsecondary education are considered first generation students (Strayhorn, 2006) Despite increased access to postsecondary institutions, first generation students continue to differ from their peers throughout their college choice process, especially in r elation to their degree aspirations (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006; Saenz, et al., 2007) Specifically, first generation students typically have lower overall educational aspirations than their peers (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Saenz, et al., 2007) It is criti cal to examine degree aspirations since these aspirations often influence whether or not a student will actually pursue postsecondary education attainment (Park, et al., 2011; Sayrs, 1989) Furthermore, potential influences on degree aspirations, such as parental influences, may vary for first generation students within their population so a more nuanced view of parental influences is necessary. The purpose of this st udy was to examine the role of parental/guardian involvement on the degree aspirations of ninth grade first generation students, specifically focused on what type of degree they are planning on pursuing following the completion of their high school educati on. There was one primary research question guiding this study:
119 What is the relationship between parental/guardian involvement and ninth grade first education? Additionally, there was one sub question related to the primary research question: What is the relationship between parental involvement and ninth grade first completion of their high school education? In order to examine both of these research questions, the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 was selected as the dataset for this study since it provided the most current and robust dataset available to investigate first generation studen degree aspirations. Conducting descriptive and multivariate analyses of the dataset provided information describing potential characteristic differences of first generation students associated with the degrees they considered pursuing and their percei ved of this empirical study based on the theoretical framework employed throughout the study. Summary of Research Findings The following sections will present the r esults from the data analyses within the context of the current research on first specifically their degree aspirations. To facilitate the discussion of the results, the findings will be presented based on the conceptual model of college choice previously discussed. In particular, demographic characteristics will be discussed first, followed by cultural capital, social capital, and
120 finally school context. The modified model of college choice provided a comprehensive lens to examine unique aspects of first literature due to its robust inclusion of va riables from both economic and sociologic approaches. Demographic Characteristics In order to examine ninth grade first variables were selected for this study. The first demographic variable, gender, was not significant across all models and comparisons, which is supported by previous studies that found that gender was not a significant predictor for first educational aspira tions and that typically male and female first similar levels of degree attainment (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) When student aspirations are examined, regardless of parental educational level, gender also is not found to be statist ically significant (Garg, et al., 2002) Pertinent to first generation students, Dennis, Phinney, and Chuateco (2005) noted that there is no significant association between gender and first enrolled, which s upports the finding that there were no significant differences based on While not all models reported significant findings comparing males and female ninth grade first generation students, there wer e some gender differences that were significant that are important to examine. Primarily, male students were more likely than females to indicate a preference to aspire to earn only a high school diploma rather than a college degree. Secondly, male stude nts were also more likely to select high school
121 as their terminal education versus not being sure about future degree plans. Current research has found that male students, regardless of ethnicity, exhibit lower educational expectations than their female p eers (Lowman & Elliott, 2010; Mau & Bikos, 2000; Park, et al., 2011) ; however, earlier research indicated that males typically had higher aspirations than females (Wilson & Wilson, 1992) Regardless of these conflicting findings, it is apparent that gende r does play a role in degree expectations of first of college choice reflect that other potential factors, such as social capital or cultural capital, may influence gender differences and ultimately first college choice or more specific to this study degree aspirations. Although previous studies have found contrasting findings on the significance of gender on degree aspirations, it is imperative to con tinue to examine the role of gender on degree aspirations research, especially as females increase their enrollment numbers in postsecondary education and outnumber their male peers (Snyder & Dillow, 2011) This study indicated that even as early as the n inth grade, first generation male students are already exhibiting lower educational aspirations than their female peers. The gender gap in postsecondary education is continuing to expand and further examination is necessary to understand what factors are contributing to it and the potential differences in degree aspirations between male and female students (Park, et al., 2011) Future studies may consider exploring at what age and grade level males start considering a high school diploma as a viable final option for their educational aspirations.
122 The next demographic characteristic examined in this study was race/ethnicity. This study found that Black/African American students were significantly more confident ir White peers. The extant literature on degree aspirations of Black/African American students has not been conclusive. For example, recent research has suggested that Black/African American students have the highest degree aspirations when compared to a ll other racial/ethnic groups (Mello, 2009) ; however, other research has indicated contradictory findings with Black/African American having lower aspirations than their White peers (Cooper, 2009) The preliminary findings in this study indicated that wit hin the Black/African American while within the White student group under 40% of students in this study indicated a similar level of confidence. These findings may sugges t that at an early age Black/African American students develop self assurance that they have the ability to not examined how particular teachers encouraged Black/African America n students to develop confidence in their skill sets but additional research is needed (Barley & Beesley, 2007) Additionally, other racial/ethnic groups such as Latino students continue to exhibit lower degree aspirations and must also continue to be add ressed in research studies (Graham Clay, 2005) the study also sought to investigate if there were any significant differences in degree aspirations based on race/ethnicity. T he only significant finding for all of the degree aspiration models was that American Indian students were significantly more likely to
123 indicate a preference in only wanting a high school diploma rather than earning a college degree. The preliminary analy sis supported this finding with almost 40% of American Indian students indicating a preference to earn at most a high school diploma and they also had the smallest percentage of students of all racial/ethnic groups that were interested in earning a college degree. These results are supported by previous studies that included American Indian students and found that American Indian students often report low degree aspirations (Mau & Bikos, 2000; Mello, 2009) These results must be carefully examined, though due to the small number of American Indian students included in this study. Other studies often do not include American Indian students due to small numbers (Mau & Bikos, 2000) ; therefore, scant information about ions is available in the extant literature. Despite not finding many significant findings between the racial/ethnic groups and their degree aspirations, it is important to examine these results. Past research has typically focused on comparing the entire first generation group to non first generati on students and found significant differences in degree aspirations (Choy, 2001; Hahs Vaughn, 2004; Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Saenz, et al., 2007; Terenzini, et al., 1996) Additionally, past research also found that when comparing all students there were significant differences in degree aspirations based on race/ethnicity (Adelman, 2006; Hurtado, et al., 1997; Lowman & Elliott, 2010; Mello, 2009) For example, Asian American students typically indicate the highest degree aspirations when compared to thei r peers, while Latino students report the lowest (Hurtado, et al., 1997) The lower expectations for many of the underrepresented groups is often cited as resulting from
124 their need to overcome many barriers to advance in their schooling (Tierney & Venegas 2004) The results of this study indicate that racial/ethnic differences did not play a significant role for most students in this study; however, race/ethnicity may play a role in the degree aspirations of first generation students but other factors may have a larger role overall. For example, other variables such as socioeconomic status might have confounded the race/ethnicity variable (Mello, 2009) causing it to not be significant. Also, there is the potential that since all students in the sample we re first generation students, their degree aspirations were similar already so race/ethnicity would not be as significant. More exploration is necessary to determine if race/ethnicity of first generation students is not as big a hindrance to degree aspira tions as previous studies have found. proposed conceptual model of college choice, as well as the extant literature. Previous findings on both gender and race/ethnicity have not always been conclusive and at times conflicting, so this study adds to the current literature highlighting how gender and race/ethnicity are critical to examine in terms of degree aspirations but are only one numerous influences (e.g. family income, college costs, academic preparation) directly and indirectly affect college choice, so it is feasible that other factors examined in this study might have limited the influence of gender and race/ethnicity. Additio nally, other variables not available in HSLS:09 might have provided more information about the varying degree aspirations and degree confidence based on gender and race/ethnicity. Regardless, this study exhibits that
125 differences do exist in gender and ra ce/ethnicity on first aspirations and some particular student groups continue to exhibit lower aspirations from their earlier schooling experiences early age in their college choice process. Cultural Capital The next set of var iables examined in this study were centered around the idea of native language role of cultural capital. Cultural capital is often a key component in the college choice process since students rely on others to gain knowledge about future opportunities and oftent imes these influences come directly from parents (McDonough, 1997; Tierney & Venegas, 2006) First generation students are often put at a disadvantage since they lack particular resources and advantages that result from cultural capital (Terenzini, et al., 1996; Walpole, 2003) By examining specific cultural capital variables, this study will determine the role of first other about college on their degree aspirations and confidence in completing a It is well documented that students identified as first generation are more likely to come from homes where English is not the primary language (Bui, 2002) so this study sought to examine whether or not the native language of firs t generation students influenced their degree aspirations. Previous research suggested that native language education levels (Lowman & Elliott, 2010) This study, which use d the most recent dataset available, supported these findings by finding that native language was not
126 statistically significant on whether or not first generation students were confident in on pursuing. These degree aspirations, which is critical since first generation students are more likely to come from homes where English is not the primary language Despite not being found significant, though, this variable should not be exclude in studies because it does Additionally, while this study and previous researc h suggested native language was not significant to educational aspirations, other research has found that when English is the second language for students or their parents educational aspirations may be lower (Behnke, Piercy, & Diversi, 2004) The second cultural capital variable examined was whether or not ninth grade first generation students had discussions with others about college. Gathering information generation students are o ften put at a disadvantage since their parents do not have first hand knowledge (Bell, et al., 2009; Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) In order to compensate for this lack of knowledge from their parents, first generation students must seek out information from other individuals, such as teachers, friends, and counselors (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) ; however, some first generation students do not seek out assistance or do not know what information to ask for from others (Hsiao, 1992) This study found that studen ts who did not have any discussions with others about aspire to earn a college degree in comparison to their peers who had spoken to many
127 people about college. Add itionally, even students who had moderate discussions with others about college were also significantly less likely to be certain in completing a high school diploma. These findings support previous research that indicates that it is critical for first generation students to talk to others and have college knowledge in order to successfully navigate the college choice process (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006; Thayer, 2000) First generation students are placed at a variety of disadvantages as a result of their parents not having first hand knowledge of the college choice process, so it is imperative for them to talk about college and gain relevant college knowledge. By increasing their opportunity to talk to other individuals about college, the likelihood of their chances of aspiring to earn a college degree will significantly increase; however, ju st one facet of the college choice process. This study suggests that particular aspects of cultural capital play a significant role in the degree aspirations of ninth grade first (2006) proposed conceptual model tha t incorporates cultural capital variables. Prior research suggested that cultural capital influences the college choice process (Lowman & Elliott, 2010; McDonough, 1997; Tierney & Venegas, 2006) but oftentimes the research did not focus on the first gene ration student population as a heterogeneous group. Findings from this study indicate that while native language is one aspect of cultural capital, it may not directly influence first aspirations; however, in combination with o ther variables it may indirectly influence
128 for first generation students to be guided to correct college knowledge and for them to be encouraged to participate in d iscussions about college early on in their college choice process so their chances of desiring a college degree improve. Social Capital In addition to examining cultural capital, social capital is another key component to s (2006) proposed conceptual model in college choice. This particular study selected three variables to investigate cultural capital: family income levels, parental involvement, and parent information about college. Collectively, these three variables c reate important aspects of the social capital perspective that Perna referenced in her model. This study found that family income levels played a key factor in ninth grade first inc ome also were significantly less likely to aspire to earn a college degree than a high school degree. These findings are supported by previous studies that found th at educational aspirations do vary based on family income level (Fitzgerald, 2004; Trusty, Robinson, Plata, & Ng, 2000) with some research suggesting that low socioeconomic status is one of the strongest predictors of lower educational expectations (Hanson 1994) This study also found that students from medium high income families were more likely to be unsure about their future degree plans than students from high income families. apital in the college choice process and suggests that key variables such as income and information about college were integral to studying college choice. Earlier college
129 choice models often gathered negative criticism since they were assumed to only exa mine the college choice process from the perspective of high income families (Hurtado, et al., 1997) (2006) proposed conceptual model that income does play a key role in the college choice proces s and strengthen the support for the notion that early college choice models did not address all relevant variables. From a social capital perspective, the results of this study suggest that even at the ninth grade level, low income first generation stud ents are already significantly less likely to consider college as a viable option for after high school in comparison to high income first generation students. These lower expectations are often connected to lower income families having less access to inf ormation about college (Carter, 2003) ; therefore, this may suggest that first generation students from lower income families are disadvantaged as a result of having less social capital. These findings are also critical to look at because it rejects th e notion that first generation students are a monolithic group. Past research found that there is a significant gap in educational aspirations between students from high income and low income families (Ingels & Dalton, 2008) but typically similar finding s were not demonstrated in the first generation student population potentially since first generation students are normally assumed to come from only low income families. More recent research has suggested, though, that when first generation students are compared to all other students, not only do first generation students represent the whole range of income levels but also are more likely to indicate coming from the highest income quartile rather than the lowest income quartile (Davis, 2010) In conjunct ion with the
130 findings of this study, this research supports the idea that first generation students are a heterogeneous group and highlights the necessity to address within group differences on variables such as income that may influence educational aspira tions. In addition to examining income as a contributing factor of social capital, this study focused on the role of parents on ninth grade first aspirations. Despite preliminary analysis indicating differences between parenta l differences for parental involvement. The findings of this study support previous research that suggests that for first generation students parental involvement is not a key predictor for education aspirations (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) In addition, these findings do not support the hypotheses proposed in this study that first generation stud ents with lower parent involvement would have lower degree aspirations and less support the hypothesis that differences exist in first aspirat ions based on different demographic characteristics. However, this finding differs when non first generation students are examined. educational aspirations (Chapman, 19 81) while more recent research highlights that college choice process (Hossler, et al., 1989; Smith & Fleming, 2006) First generation students are a unique population and despite most studies suggesting that parental involvement plays a significant factor in developing educational aspirations, this study
131 suggests that no level of parent involvement has a significant influence on first spirations. Additionally, although this study examined first generation students only in the ninth grade and students may change their postsecondary education expectation by the time they complete high school, evidence suggests that most students determin e their educational aspirations between the eighth and tenth grade (Hossler, et al., 1999) This study assumed that many first generation students would have minimal involvement from their parents since earlier research suggested that parents with lower (Choy, 2001) While some students, especially those with less certainty about parental i nvolvement, most first levels of parental involvement. Contrary to earlier research suggesting that first generation students receive limited parental involvement (Nunez & Cuccaro Alamin, 1998; Pascarella et al., 2004) this study suggests that the majority of first generation students do receive moderate parental involvement despite their parents having lower educational experience. Parental involvement in this study was based on six school related varia bles because earlier research highlighted that school influences were not often taken into account on parental involvement when examining college choice (L. Perna & Titus, 2005) This study tried to quantify parental involvement but by basing it on specif ic school related variables, the study may have inadvertently neglected to include other pertinent parental involvement variables. In particular, more attention should address
132 how much parents talk to their children about college and educational opportuni ties. Regardless of how parent involvement is defined, it will continue to remain a broad construct that is not always easily adaptable in educational aspiration studies. The final variable examined in the social capital block reviewed whether if parents had information about college played a significant role in educational aspirations. Many first generation students struggle in the college choice process since information typically conveyed from parents regarding the process is often not available since their parents do not have first hand knowledge of the college choice process (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) The general assumption that first generation students do not have information about college was proven incorrect in this study with more than one thir d of parents indicating that they did have information about college although their students were only in the ninth grade. Furthermore, this study did support the notion that students whose parents did have information about college were significantly mor e indicate pursuing a college degree over being unsure (Bell, et al., 2009; Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) These findings suggest that despite first generation students coming from a disadvantaged situation where their parents lack experience in the college choice process, they can overcome this disadvantage if their parents gather information about college. Future studies need to investigate why particular first generat ion information would assist more first generation students in overcoming the disadvantages placed against them.
1 33 Social capital plays a key role in college choice and mor e specifically the development of degree aspirations of first generation students. Even as early as the ninth grade, differences based on income level and parental college knowledge are present in first generation students. These findings highlight that not only does social capital influence first generation students are not a monolithic group as often is presented in the extant model provides a sound framework to identify degree aspirations differences based on the varying levels of social capital seen in first generation students. School Context The last block of variables investigated in this study were based on layer two from and community context. In addition to examining the location of the school, the school cou nselor specifically focused on college readiness and if the school offered advanced placement (AP) courses. Collectively, these three layers address the school context of the theoretical framework guiding this study and their role on the degree aspiration s of first generation students. In this study, students who attended a school located in a rural area were significantly more likely to be uncertain about their college plans than to indicate a omplete a high school education. Therefore, this study appears to be consistent with previous research suggesting that students attending high schools in rural areas typically exhibit low educational expectations (Herzog & Pittman, 1995) Furthermore, in comparison to
134 their peers at high schools located in urban or suburban settings, students in rural high schools have lower education aspirations (Karen, 2002) First generation students attend a variety of high schools, but it appears that first generati on students attending rural schools are even more disadvantaged than their peers attending suburban and city schools. School location may only be one factor that influences the educational aspirations of first generation students. For instance, a more n uanced look of the socioeconomic level of the school students attend indicates that this factor, in addition to the school location, influences whether students are likely to attend two or four year institutions (Engberg & Wolniak, 2010) This study inten tionally excluded free lunch percentage as a measure of the socioeconomic status of the school a first generation student attends since Harwell and LeBeau (2010) found that high school urbanicity is a better indicator espite this finding, a more thorough analysis of first into whether or not it is the location or the socioeconomic status that is a larger influence on the educational aspirati ons of first generation students. In addition to examining school location, this study also investigated whether or not having a counselor in a high school focused on college readiness significantly influenced degree aspirations. The results of this study indicate that having a counselor focused on college readiness did not significantly influence degree aspirations but did specifically, first generation students who attended schools without a counselor fo cused
135 These results are in conjunction with previous findings that first generation students often rely on assistance from high school counselors when making educati onal decisions (Horn & Nunez, 2000; Saenz, et al., 2007) Other related factors may also have influenced the results of this study associated with the counselor readiness variable. For example, many first generation students attend schools that are unde r funded and subsequently have counselors who must focus on more behavior related issues versus postsecondary education preparation (McDonough, 1997) In addition, the counselor related variable findings also may reflect the fact that students in this stu dy are only ninth grade students, so even if they had counselors focused on college readiness they may not be utilizing them for such but further analysis is necessary t o see how counselors can most positively influence the college choice process for first generation students. The final variable examined in this study focused on whether AP courses were offered at first nds that first generation students often participate in a less rigorous curriculum then their peers (Chen, 2005; Choy, 2001; Warburton, et al., 2001) and subsequently students attending less rigorous high schools are more likely to exhibit lower aspiration s for college degrees (Engberg & Wolniak, 2009, 2010; Hossler, et al., 1999; McDonough, 1997) Additionally, if students do not feel their schools are supporting their postsecondary aspirations, they are less likely to aspire to attend college (Pitre, 200 6) Although research suggests that high schools offering a challenging curriculum provide positive influence on degree aspirations, this study found insignificant results
136 related specifically to AP course offerings. Specifically, whether a school offer ed AP courses had no significant results on ninth grade first school curriculum. Most of the schools included in the analysis of this study indicated that they offered AP courses to their students, so a more comprehensive curriculum variable or combination of academic variables may find results that support previous research. Examining the school context of the high schools that first generation students attend is critical when studying the degree aspirations of first generation students. While it is assumed that many first generation students attend less funded less challenging, and lower income schools, (Choy, 2001; Hamrick & Stage, 2004) this is not the case for all first generation students and more importantly some of these factors may not directly influence first generation students degree aspirations. As more first generation students navigate the college choice process and enter postsecondary education, it is imperative to see how the role of schools influences college choice. This that areas such as school urbanicity and high school counselor focus influenced the college choice process of first generation students. This study only incorporated three school contexts variables as a result of the data used, but more robust and compre hensive school context variables should be considered in future studies. Final Reflection of Findings This study sought to examine the role of parental/guardian involvement on the degree aspirations of first generation students with the context of a natio nal representative sample. The previous sections discussed the findings within the context
137 of the theoretical framework guiding this study, but there are overall themes that span across the regression blocks that warrant further discussion. These themes will be addressed in this section. While the main focus of this study, parental involvement, was not found significantly related to either degree aspirations or the sub question subject of t dismiss the importance of the role of parents in first have clearer degree aspirations and confidence in completing a b Parental involvement is a broad construct that previously was not found significant in first (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) but has been repeatedly noted to be lower for first generation st udents than their peers (Choy, 2001; McDonough, 1997; Nunez & Cuccaro Alamin, 1998; Pascarella, et al., 2004) Parent involvement must be further examined to see what particular aspects of it do influence first generation students degree aspirations. This study also highlights that not all first generation students have limited parental involvement in their college choice process. For example, less than ten percent of first generation students received no parental involvement, while the remaining first ge neration students received moderate or high parental involvement. This suggests, along with other variables analyzed in this study, that first generation students are not a monolithic group but rather a heterogeneous population. In agreement with previou s studies, this study highlights that not only are first generation students a heterogeneous population, but that these differences within the group have significant influence on the
138 college choice process (Phinney, et al., 2005) Furthermore, this study provides relevant information about potential factors that positively influence the pathways that first generation students navigate to eventually enroll in postsecondary education. These findings contribute to an area of literature that had scant evidenc e previously (Gofen, 2009; Olive, 2008) A final finding from this study that contributes to the extant literature is the support students or more specifically first gener conceptual model has been used in limited studies to date (Bergerson, 2009) but due to its inclusion of both economical and sociological factors it was expected to be suitable for this study. The findings of this study support its relevance when studying first model of college choice to this study suppo rted findings in the current literature, while also providing new information to fill current gaps in the literature. In addition to reviewing general findings from this study, it is also important to note some limitations that were evident once the study was completed. First, it was evident from the results indicating that parental involvement was not a significant influence on degree aspirations that the method to develop the parental involvement variable may have affected these results. While prior res earch has used a similar method to develop a parental involvement variable (Tierney & Venegas, 2004) only selecting questions ns. A second limitation that became evident after
139 the analyses was the limited role of academic variables included in this study. More robust academic variables should be included in order to further examine the second nceptual model, but for this study this was not feasible due to the number of questions with missing data. Finally, the last limitation was the finding that surveying ninth grade students about their degree aspirations may have resulted in many students n ot knowing their degree aspirations. At such a young age many students are unsure and subsequently the results indicate that many students did not know their degree aspirations. This result made it hard to compare students who were not sure about their f uture plans to those who aspired to earn a college degree or only a high school diploma. Chapter Summary The purpose of this study was to present a discussion of the results provided in the previous chapter. In addition, it reviewed the purpose of the st udy and the research questions while also explaining the contributions of this study. The remainder of the chapter explored specific highlights of the findings of this study within the context of the modified theoretical model used. Specifically, the ro le of demographic characteristics, cultural capital, social capital, and school context were examined to determine their role on first variable was s ignificant for each model, this chapter highlighted key findings and addressed that numerous differences exist within the first generation student population. Furthermore, this chapter supported previous research suggesting that the first generation popul ation is a heterogeneous population and should not be treated aas
140 a monolithic group. This chapter concluded with highlights of this study pertinent to the current literature and the theoretical framework used.
141 CHAPTER 6 IMPLICATIONS AND FUT URE RESEARCH This study investigated the role of parents on first first introduce key policy implications and then institutional recommendations related to first on this content area will be explored to assist in the continued examination of the unique experiences of first generation students. Finally, this chapte r will close with final thoughts related to this study and the challenges that first generation students must overcome to be successful in navigating the college choice process. Gaining access to postsecondary education is often seen as a gateway to a vari ety of other benefits, such as higher salaries and healthier lifestyles. These assumptions are supported by previous findings. In particular, individuals who completed a college degree in comparison to those who completed only a high school diploma earne d over twenty thousand dollars more annually in salary (Baum, et al., 2010) In addition, recent evidence suggested that women twenty five years or older who earned a high school diploma were less likely to be obese than comparable age women who had less than a high school diploma. Furthermore, adults who earned at most a high school diploma were three times more likely to smoke than adults who (NCHS, 2012) These findings highlight the advantages that emerge when peop le continue their education beyond the high school level and complete a college degree and emphasize the importance of assisting first generation students in pursuing college degrees.
142 Although first generation students are increasing their numbers in post secondary education (Choy, 2001; Strayhorn, 2006) they still exhibit a variety of struggles while trying to gain access to postsecondary education. In particular, first generation students continue to demonstrate lower degree aspirations than many of the ir non first generation peers (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Saenz, et al., 2007) This may suggest that early in the process of exploring postsecondary education first generation students are already questioning their ability to not only earn a college degree but also enroll in a postsecondary institution. This study highlighted characteristics and other factors that positively influenced degree aspirations for first generation students and subsequently provide context for policy and institutional practice re commendations to improve the opportunity for first generation students to enroll in postsecondary institutions and eventually earn college degrees. Implications for Policy and Institutional Practice This study generated numerous suggestions for policy impl ications relevant to the development of first most significant findings highlighted that first generation students, who are often already disadvantaged since their parents do not have firs t hand experience of the college process, greatly benefit when they have accurate information about the college choice process. To facilitate the ability for first generation students and their parents to gather accurate information about the college choi ce process, it is imperative for a college highlighted that students who are in schools where going to college, especially four year institutions, is the norm are mor e likely to pursue college opportunities (Engberg & Wolniak, 2009, 2010; Hossler, et al., 1999; McDonough, 1997) Therefore, the policy
143 implications based on the findings of this study will focus on developing a college going culture to assist first gener ation students in gaining critical knowledge about the college choice process and in the development of educational aspirations. Five policy recommendations will be presented: State and local policy requiring financial aid information to be disbursed District policy requiring additional funds for rural schools School policy focused on administrator/teacher college knowledge School policy regulating strength of schedule/curriculum offered Individual policy focused on parents/students gathering relevant college information In addition to describing policy recommendations, this section will also discuss institutional practices that should be introduced to assist first generation in gathering college information and developing degree aspirations. These ins titutional practices will support the idea of creating a college going culture in high schools with the intention of educating first generation students on the college choice process so that they are able to make more informed decisions about their future aspirations. Five institutional practices will be discussed based on the audience that is involved and will also complement the policy recommendations previously discussed: District level focused on developing college preparation programs for key schools School level focused on teachers attending workshops developed by counselors Individual level focused on parents attending annual college information session hosted by high school Individual level focused on students participating in college preparation pr ograms School level focused on partnering with college administrators
144 Policy Recommendations This study highlighted that when parents and first generation students had information about college they were more likely to be confident in completing a college degree and aspire to purse a college degree. In addition, past research has specifically noted that first generation students often lack information related to the costs of attending postsecondary institutions (Hsiao, 1992; L. Perna, 2004; York Anderson & Bowman, 1991) In order to improve the likelihood of first generation students and their parents gathering correct information regarding the financial obligations to attend postsecondary institutions, I suggest that a policy be put in place at the state level to mandate that all ninth grade students and their parents receive college costs information when they start the school year. While past college preparation programs have provided information regarding financial aid and costs, the discussion is usu ally limited in scope (Tierney & Venegas, 2004) This highlights the need for a more regulated process in order to disburse this information more widely to first generation students and their parents. This information can be disbursed to students in schoo l and to parents at either parent meetings or conferences. The information provided to parents and students should focus on big picture costs and not the complex details that may overwhelm people. For example, the information may be a one page document t hat lists the average costs of a community college, public four year institution, and private four year institution that are located nearby to each school. The costs should highlight what the listed tuition is and additional costs are but also what the av erage students pays out of pocket when grants and financial aid are taken into consideration. In addition, schools should provide a clear overview on the types of financial aid often available to students.
145 The second policy recommendation is focused on the need to provide rural schools with additional funds to assist in areas relevant to the college choice process. Rural schools that typically graduate high performing students indicated that this success is often related to the support of the surroundin g community (Barley & Beesley, 2007) One mechanism to support rural schools is to provide them with additional funds that are broadly focused on implementing a college going culture. This policy suggests that all schools that are found to have a low numb er of students pursuing postsecondary institutions immediately following the completion of their high school education should receive financial resources that will assist in the college choice process for all students. These funds would need to be regulat ed closely since the district would need to decide how each school should use these funds. For instance, some rural schools may be lacking a counselor focused on college readiness so those schools would receive funding to pay for the salary of a college c ounselor. Each school would have to be evaluated before receiving the funds to determine how the funds will be best utilized. Additionally, it will be critical to do annual assessments to see if the additional funds are making an impact on the number of students pursuing postsecondary institutions. The next two policies focus on implementing regulations at the school level. First, research has consistently shown that first generation students attend schools where their teachers are under prepared (Hamri ck & Stage, 2004) ; however, first generation students often rely on these teachers for sources of accurate college information since their parents do not have first hand experience of the college experience (Horn & Nunez, 2000; Saenz, et al., 2007) In or der for teachers and counselors to be informed
146 about the college choice process and be able to communicate this information to their students, schools must introduce a policy of requiring all teachers and counselors at the high school level to participate in college knowledge workshops. The time commitment and focus for these trainings would need to be determined by the individual schools but this policy must be strictly enforced. While schools may already have counselors specifically focused on college r eadiness, first generation students may also seek out the advice of other teachers who may not be as knowledgeable about the college choice process. The second school related policy is related to the curriculum that students are offered or provided. Simi lar to having teachers who are often under prepared, first generation students may also be at high schools were there are limited course offerings (Hamrick & Stage, 2004) These limited course offerings may prove to be an ucation success since first generation students who enroll in more advanced, rigorous coursework are more likely to stay enrolled in college than first generations students who only took regular courses (Trotter, 2001) To that end, schools must be requir ed to offer advanced courses for their students, which is also critical to developing a college going culture (Corwin & Tierney, 2007) While many high schools first generation students attend are underfunded (Hamrick & Stage, 2004) schools must work wit hin their districts to find methods to challenge their students academically even if they cannot offer the advanced courses due to low enrollment or limited resources. These methods should be readily available to all eligible students. Additionally, all students should be evaluated regularly to see if they belong in these courses. This policy will create opportunities for all students,
147 regardless of the school they attend, to take advantage of advanced courses that will challenge their intellectual abili ties and prepare them for future educational aspirations. The final policy recommendation is related to whether or not parents and first generation students gather college information. While first do not have first hand colle ge experience, this study highlighted that when parents do gather information their children are more likely to be confident in completing a continuously highlighted that paren ts play a significant role in the development of process (Chapman, 1981; Flint, 1992; Hossler, et al., 1989) In particular, early in the college choice process parents aspirations (Chapman, 1981) so it is pivotal during that time that parents provide necessary information to their children about postsecondary education options. In order to improve the likelihood of parents gathering this information, a policy should be put in place that mandates that parents must be required to attend an information session at Enacting such a requirement will entail the as sistance of a variety of constituents but the benefits of mandating that all parents receive college choice process information may prove invaluable to students, especially those whose parents would not otherwise gather college information. The informatio n provided to parents should be an introduction to the steps required to attend postsecondary institutions and what opportunities are often available to students who complete some type of postsecondary degree.
148 Institutional Practices The policy recommend ations provide the foundation to assist high schools in developing a college going culture, but further guidance regarding the implementation of these policies is necessary. To complement the previous policy recommendations the following institutional pra ctices will be introduced with many of them complementing the policy recommendations. While it is not possible to provide a complete step by step plan for the institutional practices, high school administrators can use the following recommendations to sta rt developing programs that will assist first generation students in more clearly understanding the college choice process and considering what options are available to them after they finish high school. Each school will be able to use these recommendati ons to implement practices that will fit their current needs. The first institutional practice focuses on school districts recognizing the importance of developing a college going culture throughout all schools located in the district and working with sc hools who currently do not have a college going culture. In particular, districts must identify schools that are not currently embracing a college going culture and provide support to them to develop a college preparation program. Specifically, schools, especially those in rural locations or that are underfunded, may need to develop programs that introduce first generation students to the college choice process and provide opportunities for them to interact with others on a regular basis to discuss colleg e. These interactions should be with fellow classmates, teachers, and counselors. In particular, teacher and counselors already act as a source of guidance to many first generation students for the college choice process (Horn & Nunez, 2000; Saenz, et al ., 2007) but this process should become more formalized in schools.
149 In order to develop these programs, the districts must evaluate all their schools and determine which schools are struggling with assisting first generation students and subsequently pr ovide them with the necessary funds to develop college preparation programs. In addition to variety of interactions that should occur in the college preparation programs, the district should introduce regularly scheduled college information sessions for a ll students but students from key schools (i.e. rural, underfunded) should be required to attend these sessions. These sessions may discuss not only information regarding potential postsecondary options but also information related to the application proce ss. Previous college enrollment programs that were mandated by the government often focused on providing financial support to students who pursued college opportunities but failed to provide information about the process to actually apply and enroll at po stsecondary institutions (L. Perna, Rowan Kenyon, Bell, Thomas, & Li, 2008) By developing programs at the district level schools will provide more focused programs that will meet the unique needs of their students rather than a general program that may n ot apply to the students in that particular school. Additionally, introducing this program at the district level will demonstrate the school The second institutional practice is related to the p revious school policy focused on requiring all teachers and administrators to develop college knowledge. In order for a school to introduce such a policy, though, they must have a program in place to deliver the college knowledge to their teachers and adm inistrators. All schools should regularly assess the college knowledge of their teachers and administrators with the assistance of counselors who focus on college readiness. Utilizing counselors who
150 have a strong foundation in college knowledge and ident ifying weak knowledge areas of the teachers and administrators will allow schools to develop targeted programs that will basic college knowledge, such as deadlines and re quirements for the college application cycle. As the school establishes a solid foundation of college knowledge that teachers and administrators fully understand, more advanced topics could be covered. For instance, since many first generation students l ack information about the costs to attend postsecondary institutions (Hsiao, 1992; L. Perna, 2004; York Anderson & Bowman, 1991) more advanced workshops could train teachers and administrators about the nuances of the financial aid opportunities, as well as the application process. In order to fit these college knowledge teaching programs into schedules that may already be quite busy, administrators should allow these programs to occur as part of staff meetings. For instance, administrators may decide t hat the first teacher meeting of every month will include some aspect of educating their teachers about college knowledge. By providing these college knowledge teaching programs during regularly scheduled meetings, teachers will not have to commit extra t ime and also will recognize the commitment that their school is making to this subject. It is not expected that teachers will replace the role of counselors to assist first generation students with the college choice process, but since many first generati on students do rely on teachers for college information teachers should have a basic foundation of college knowledge. Just as the policy recommendations included a focus on developing policies related to parents and students, the next two institutional practices highlight the need for schools to develop practices incorporating parents and students. First, in regards to
151 p arents, it is imperative that they receive accurate college knowledge in a timely fashion. In order to facilitate the implementation of the policy requiring parents to attend an annual information session regarding the college choice process, teachers and schools must develop programs that fit the unique needs of parents. In particular, schools should have meetings available at different times for working parents, at a convenient location, and also using technology to provide alternative methods to dissem inate information (Graham Clay, 2005) By providing meetings that are not restricted to one night in a lecture style manner, more parents of first generation students may be able to gather accurate information from teachers and counselors and subsequentl y pass this information along to their children. Teachers and counselors at high schools must be willing to consider alternative methods of instruction to allow a wider variety of parents to attend meetings and more importantly to gather information about college. Additionally, it will be important for teachers and counselors to carefully note which parents have attended the information sessions, so that they can follow up with parents who have not gathered the college knowledge information. In regards to students gathering accurate college knowledge, programs should be developed in the school system that facilitate the exchange of information between counselors, teachers, and students regarding the college choice process. This institutional practice co mplements the policy recommendation to introduce college preparation programs at schools that need additional assistance, such as rural schools. In order for students to fully gather college information, schools must embrace a college going culture and in corporate all students into the program at an early age. A college
152 going culture supports behaviors that relate to preparing for and applying to college and while programs are often found in specialized areas of high schools, such as magnet programs, they should ideally be accessible to all students (Corwin & Tierney, 2007) In order for students to successfully participate in college preparation programs, schools must consistently provide encouragement for them to attend program sessions. Additionally, these programs should start when students first enter high school and no between the eighth and tenth grade (Hossler, et al., 1999) First generation students must be provid ed guidance and support to become fully engaged members of these college preparation programs since they cannot rely on their parents for first hand college knowledge (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) This encouragement can come from teachers and counselors but also from the school providing time and structured programs for first generation students to gather college knowledge. It is imperative for first generation students to gather college knowledge early in order to develop informed educational aspirations. Finally, the last institutional practice that is recommended is to develop partnerships between high schools and colleges. In particular, high schools should work with both their local community two year and public four year institutions to have represe ntatives come in to their school on a regular basis to not only share information about their respective institutions but to also provide guidance about the college choice process and the employment opportunities available to those students who attend thei r institutions. Counselors in each respective high school should develop these partnerships with local postsecondary institutions and maintain these relationships
153 through regular meetings. While some high schools may already have representatives from the local postsecondary institutions regularly visiting to provide information about their institution, the counselor should work with the representative to develop a more education based workshop that will assist students on the college choice process. Addi tionally, college representatives may provide expertise and information to high school counselors and their students that will assist all students in the college choice process (Corwin & Tierney, 2007) Schools that are committed to developing a solid coll ege going culture that provides first generation students with college information must be willing to overcome particular challenges that are often seen in high schools struggling to develop college going cultures. Namely, all levels of the school must be willing to commit to developing a systematic college going culture. Additionally, schools and their respective districts must seek out additional resources to assist in the process of developing a college going culture (Corwin & Tierney, 2007) By devel oping a college going culture, schools will provide an environment that will assist all students, not just first generation students, in recognizing that college is an opportunity available to students from a variety of backgrounds. The policy recommenda tions and institutional recommendations discussed here highlight key areas that must be developed in order for schools to provide assistance to all students, but especially first generation students who based on this study have a variety of disadvantages p laced against them. It is critical to note that while it may be ideal for all these recommendations to be implemented on a widespread basis, I recognize that costs may prohibit the implementations of them in many areas. To
154 address limited funds, district s and schools should assess which recommendations would be most meaningful and implement the recommendations that would have the largest impact. While it may not be possible for every policy and practice to be fully implemented, schools that strive to dev elop a college going culture will greatly assist their first generation students in learning about the college choice process. Future Research Differences exist within the first generation student population related to college plans depending on demograp hics and other characteristics (Olive, 2008; Phinney, et al., 2005) but limited information explores this group as a heterogeneous population. Additionally, a dearth of evidence exists discussing the preparation methods first generation students utilize when trying to gain access to postsecondary education institutions (Gofen, 2009) While this study provided insight on the within group differences of first generation students, further research is necessary to better understand first degree aspirations and the pathways they take to gain access to postsecondary institutions. There are three main areas that need further research to strengthen the understanding of first t needs a larger emphasis in future studies examining first aspirations. Second, the role of parents on first needs to be more clearly defined and understood. Finally, some methodologica l modifications should be made to strengthen future studies. School Context college choice to examine the role of school context on degree aspirations of first
155 generation stude nts. While this relatively new theoretical framework has been tested only in limited research (Bergerson, 2009) it was relevant for school context because it incorporates ideas of school resources and support. While this study did find that school urban icity influenced degree aspirations, future studies that use a different dataset need to expand the number of school context variables that are included. The first variable that may want to be included in future studies is the socioeconomic status of the s chool that first generation students are attending. While socioeconomic status than the percentage of students receiving free lunch (Harwell & LeBeau, 2010) other researc h has used a more clearly defined socioeconomic status variable using a dollar amount (Engberg & Wolniak, 2010) Future studies should consider using the percentage of students on free lunch or a dollar amount to define the socioeconomic status of the sch ool a first generation student is attending. This variable can be used in conjunction with the urbanicity variable to gain a better idea of the role of aspirations. The sec ond area that needs to be further explored related to the role of school context on first test re sults since students were only in the fall of their ninth grade year and that data was not available in the dataset used. Extant research continuously highlights how first generation students typically display lower grade point averages and standardized t ests than their non first generation peers (Brown & Burkhardt, 1999; Chen, 2005; Hahs
156 Vaughn, 2004; Penrose, 2002; Riehl, 1994) but research does not investigate if all first generation students exhibit these same characteristics. Future studies should e xpand on the inclusion of academic related variables to see if differences exist in the first generation student population and also if particular characteristics play a role on first The final area that should be e (2006) proposed model of college choice is the curriculum that first generation students enroll in while in high school. In particular, first generation students often take less rigorous coursework than t heir peers (Chen, 2005; Choy, 2001; Pascarella, et al., 2004; Warburton, et al., 2001) which may influence their ability to be aptly prepared to attend postsecondary institutions or develop degree aspirations. This study only included whether a school of fered advanced placement courses but did not examine the differences between students who participated in the advanced placement courses and those who did not. Further exploration on the type of curriculum that first generation students enroll in may prov ide insight into how many first generation students do take a rigorous curriculum in high school and if that curriculum influences degree aspirations. Parent Involvement The main variable of interest for this study was parental involvement and was designe d by combining six questions asking parents how they were involved with their (L. Perna & Titus, 2005) and the survey used in this study provided specific questions related to parent involvement with the school. This study did not find significant results related to this particular variable and student degree aspirations, but studies should
157 co ntinue to examine parental involvement since it is often found to be a positive (Hoover Dempsey & Sander, 1995; Hossler, et al., 1989; Hossler & Stage, 1992; Smith & Fleming, 2006) One of the most difficult as pects of including parental involvement in studies is the process of defining it. Extant research often uses a quantitative variable as this study utilized and may measure parent involvement in the amount of time parents spend with their children (Horn & Chen, 1998; L. Perna, 2000a; L. Perna & Titus, 2005) Future research should consider first conducting a qualitative study to understand what types of involvement first involvement related to th e college choice process may vary from parents who have a college degree, so further exploration is necessary. Once there is a clearer understanding of how parents interact with first generation students a quantitative measure may be utilized in studies t hat will better measure the levels of involvement. This study did find significant results based on whether or not parents had college admissions information. This finding is critical since one definition of parental involvement focuses on whether paren ts had discussions with their children about college (Hossler, et al., 1999) ; however, if parents do not have information about college how likely is it that they can have an educated discussion about college with their children? Future studies may consid er investigating how parents who do not have first hand experience with the college choice process are collecting their college information, so that suggestions can be made to parents who currently are not gathering any college information.
158 Methodological Modifications The final area to be discussed in regards to future research will address some methodological modifications that could strengthen the study and provide more robust insights regarding the aspirations of first generation students. Every study inherently has limitations as a result of the data being used and the knowledge of the researcher, but exploring ways to minimize these limitations will improve results and provide more accurate assessments of the problem being studied. For future studies on the educational aspirations of first generation students, there are three main methodological modifications that should be considered: survey used, type of data, and time points analyzed. First, this study used the HSLS:09 dataset and was subsequent ly limited to the questions included in the survey. While the HSLS:09 dataset includes surveys administered to students, teachers, parents, and counselors, the questions included in the survey were not developed to study degree aspirations. Future studie s should consider using an alternative survey or developing one that is focused on the nuances that have emerged from previous studies on first generation students. The HSLS:09 dataset was an effective survey for this study but a more robust study that is focused on and may provide more insights into first As previously noted, using quantitative data is the norm when examining college choice and parent involvement (L. Perna, 2006) but by only incorporating quantitative data the results may not indicate the whole story. There is a dearth of evidence on the college choice process for first generation students (Gofen, 2009; Thay er, 2000) particularly on why some first generation students are successful navigating the college
159 choice process and others are not. Further research needs to focus on the reasons why first generation students choose to pursue postsecondary education an d the methods they used to successfully enroll in postsecondary institutions. To examine these areas, qualitative research may be best suited to gain this background information and then eventually these results can be translated into a more appropriate q uantitative methodology. The final methodological modification that future research should include is including more than one time point in the study. This study analyzed information that grade year of high scho ol, so students are still early in their high school education. Although aspirations are typically solidified between eighth and tenth grade (Hossler, et al., 1999) students may change and this should be further examined. Additionally, previous research has highlighted how it is important to follow students over a longer period of time and see how their aspirations match up to what they actually accomplished (Inkelas & McCarron, 2006) The HSLS:09 will be administered again to students when they are in the eleventh grade, twelfth grade, and two years after they finish high school. The data collected from these surveys would allow future research to determine if first aspirations are related to their actual enrollment. Closin g Words Approximately one third of all children enrolled in elementary and secondary education in the United States have parents with only a high school diploma or less (Aud et al., 2012) With such a large number of students still coming from families with parents without first hand experience of the college choice process and President Obama urging more people to earn a postsecondary degree, additional policies and
160 programs must be put in place in elementary and secondary schools for first generation students to learn about postsecondary options and steps needed to enroll in postsecondary institutions. Researchers must continue to fill the current gaps in the literature about first gene practitioners and policymakers in developing these critical policies and programs.
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172 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jennifer Sokas Cortes was born and raised in the s uburbs of Chicago and attended Miami University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in zoology. Jennifer went on to complete her Master of Science in higher education from Indiana University and subsequently worked in student affairs at the University o f Florida and University of Chicago. Prior to completing her Ph.D. in higher education administration, Jennifer was provided the opportunity to start a full time position within the Office of Institutional Planning and Research at the University of Florid a and will continue in this role at the conclusion of her degree.