Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Evaluating the "Underserved Student" Success in Economics Principles Courses

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Evaluating the "Underserved Student" Success in Economics Principles Courses

Article excerpt


Principles of Economics courses universally have a reputation for being challenging with concepts that may seem foreign to lower-level undergraduate students. In addition to the lack of prior knowledge of the concepts of economics, many first generation students from "underserved communities" lack the exposure to rigorous pre-college quantitative and qualitative tools needed to successfully complete an economics principles course (Rumberger, 2007 and Walker, 2007). Without a strong grasp of these foundational tools, such as math, reading and critical thinking, a student's performance in collegiate-level courses may be severely handicapped. So is there a solution that will help students from "underserved communities" understand the tools needed to successfully complete a rigorous course, such as Principles of Economics? This paper serves to analyze such a question, by measuring the effectiveness of a student's prior skill-set and course intervention tools in Principles of Economics courses at an institution that sendees students from underserved backgrounds. We seek to explore if classroom intervention strategies to enhance students' math skills and prior critical thinking and reading will consequently influence students' performance in principles of economics courses.

Defining an "Underserved Background"

Students from an "underserved background" span throughout many categories of students who historically were not provided the opportunity to meet the mark in the educational system. One could define a student from an underserved background as a student who was not given adequate resources compared to their counterparts, which in-tum creates a greater risk of lower level academic achievement. One group that is referenced by researchers, as an underserved is one made up of first generation college students (Thayer, 2000, Rumberger, 2007 and Walker, 2007). First-generation students are likely to enter college with less academic preparation, and possess limited access to information about the college experience, either firsthand or from relatives (Thayer, 2000). Thayer (2000) highlighted that students whose parents did not go to college are more likely than their non-first-generation fellow students to be at a disadvantage academically and not prepared for college. Students were also found to have less knowledge of how to apply for college and for financial assistance, and to have more difficulty in acclimating themselves to college once they enroll (Vargas, 2004).

Low-income, minority, and first-generation students are especially likely to lack specific types of "college knowledge" (Choy, 2001). Students from this underserved background often do not understand how to make the connection between career goals and educational requirements (Vargas, 2004). The first generation, and/or African-American students also tend to lack the exposure to rigorous pre college quantitative and qualitative programs needed to succeed in college (Rumberger, 2007 and Walker, 2007). Vargas (2004) found in his research that first generation college students that excelled academically in high school enter college without exposure to higher-level course offerings such as advanced placement and honors high school courses.

Underserved students are also more at risk of not completing a degree because they are more likely to: delay enrollment after high school; enroll in postsecondary education part-time; and to work full-time while enrolled. Researchers have found that targeted intervention efforts that reach out to first-generation students both before and during college can help lessen the differences between firstgeneration and non-first-generation students (Vargas, 2004). The University in which this study was undertaken encompassed students from an underserved background, also known as first generation college students. As of 2012, approximately 68 percent of the students attending this University were first generation college students (OPAA, 2015). …

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