Academic journal article College Student Journal

What Are the Motivational Factors of First-Generation Minority College Students Who Overcome Their Family Histories to Pursue Higher Education?

Academic journal article College Student Journal

What Are the Motivational Factors of First-Generation Minority College Students Who Overcome Their Family Histories to Pursue Higher Education?

Article excerpt

The pathway to college is not equal for all students. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and minorities often face difficult challenges in trying to obtain a college education. Thus, this study utilized a qualitative grounded theory approach to explore and to understand how first-generation minority college students are motivated to overcome their family histories to achieve a college education. The study consisted of two groups of participants. The first group, the central group of focus, was made up of three first-generation college students. The second group, the comparison group, consisted of two third-generation college students. Semi-structured interviews conducted in person and online were pivotal ways in which data were collected. After data collection, the data were transcribed, coded, and emergent themes identified. Results of the study revealed that first-generation college students, unlike the third-generation college students in this study (the comparison group), were not encouraged by family to attend college but their inner drive to attend college to achieve a better way of life for themselves led to them being the first in their families to attend and to graduate from college. In light of the findings of this study, it is suggested that teachers become mentors who can encourage students, particularly, minority students to attend college.

Keywords: first-generation minority college students; motivational drive; poverty; and qualitative grounded theory approach

Introduction

Higher education is considered one of the main paths leading to opportunity, social mobility, and economic progress in the U.S. (Carey, 2004). However, the pathway to college is far from equal for all students. The majority of first-generation college students are from low socio-economic backgrounds. For instance, 50% of high school graduates in 2008 came from households making less than $50,000 per year, and 16% came from households making less than $20,000 a year (McDonough, 2004). Those of low socioeconomic backgrounds and minorities face difficult challenges every step of the way. In addition to socioeconomic issues, inadequate academic preparation, lack of available information, and lack of peer counseling are also some of the daily roadblocks these students face as they strive to become the first in their extended family to attend college (McDonough, 2004).

Statistics show the low rates of first-generation college students in the USA between 1992 and 2000. In 1992, 20% of the reported first year college students were first-generation college students, and between 1993 and 2000,22% of first year college students were first-generation college students (Wirt et al., 2004). While the attendance rate of first-generation college students remains significantly lower than that of students with college-educated parents, the level remains at an average of about twenty-five percent. These first-generation college students are seen as "barrier breakers," as they are breaking down barriers or obstacles to achieve their goals of higher education. This qualitative study was designed to understand how these first-generation college students are motivated to overcome their family histories to seek a fulfilling academic pathway.

This study explored the motivational factors of first-generation college students with the focus of interest being on a single individual within a large family (for the purpose of this study, a large family was defined as five or more children). Thus, the essential question of this study was: What are the motivational factors of first-generation minority college students who overcome their family histories to pursue higher education when their siblings do not?

Significance

The theories generated from this qualitative grounded theory research study should help families and educators to develop motivational tools that can be used to inspire more students of low socioeconomic status to pursue higher education. …

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