Academic journal article Education

Parental Involvement in Middle School Predicting College Attendance for First-Generation Students

Academic journal article Education

Parental Involvement in Middle School Predicting College Attendance for First-Generation Students

Article excerpt

First-generation students are students whose parents have no college education (Nunez & Cuccaro-Alamin, 1998). These students are less likely to enroll in and graduate from college in comparison to their peers whose parents have at least a bachelor's degree (Astin & Oseguera, 2005; Synder, Tan, & Hoffman, 2004). However, it is important that first-generation students pursue and earn a college degree because higher education is positively correlated with earned income (Synder et al., 2004) and negatively correlated with reliance on public assistance (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999).

Few studies have examined variables that predict first-generation students' enrollment in college. Using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), which followed a sample from eighth grade in 1988 until eight years after high school in 2000, Horn and Nunez (2000) and Choy (2001) found that first-generation students who started with algebra in eighth grade greatly increased their likelihood of completing advanced high school mathematics, which in turn more than doubled their chances of enrolling in a 4-year college within two years of high school graduation. Horn and Nunez also found that parental involvement in the form of encouragement to take algebra in eighth grade played a role in this link between math curriculum and college enrollment. Horn and Nunez's findings provide evidence for the importance of a specific form of parental involvement in predicting enrollment in higher education for first-generation students.

In the current study we built on prior research in three ways. First, we used a broader, multidimensional conceptualization of parental involvement to predict attendance at a 4-year college for first-generation students. Parents of first-generation students tend to come from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Choy, 2001); however, their active involvement in their children's education may mediate the negative effects associated with a lack of economic resources (Jacob & Harvey, 2005). Whereas the parents' socioeconomic status (SES) is relatively unchangeable, their involvement in their children's education is more malleable to change.

Second, in contrast to prior studies that had examined college enrollment two years after high school, we increased the point of assessment of college enrollment to eight years after high school. First-generation students tend to delay college attendance (Nunez & Cuccaro-Alamin, 1998; Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella, & Nora, 1996). Thus, our extended time span would include first-generation students who delayed college enrollment for some additional years beyond the two years after high school graduation. Also, unlike many prior studies that defined academic achievement as grades (e.g., Nord & West, 2001), scores on standardized tests (e.g., Jacobs & Harvey, 2005) or even graduation from high school (e.g., Anguiano, 2004), this study defined it as attendance at a 4-year college.

Third, we kept the strengths of prior studies. We used data from NELS. We also examined variables in eighth grade because middle school experience is a precursor to high school experience, which then predicts college attendance (Hossler, Schmidt, & Vesper, 1999). First-generation students probably need intervention earlier than high school to prepare for and gain access to higher education.

First-Generation Students

Much of prior research on first-generation students has examined what happens to them once they enroll in college. Researchers have focused on their persistence in and graduation from college (Billson & Terry, 1982; Nunez & Cuccaro-Alamin, 1998; Pratt & Skaggs, 1989; Warbuton, Bugarin, & Nunez, 2001) or their experiences while in college (London, 1989; Riehl, 1994; Terenzini et al., 1996; Zwerling & London, 1992). The focus on their college persistence and graduation is understandable in light of statistics showing that first-generation students who earn a college degree have labor market outcomes similar to those of young adults whose parents are college educated (Choy, 2001; Nunez & Cuccaro-Alamin, 1998). …

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