How First-Generation College and Underrepresented Students Can Overcome Obstacles to Attaining a College Education: Handbook for a New Family Tradition




Amaya, Israel

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In research and in practice, two similar but significantly different definitions arise for the term First Generation College Student (FGCS). The difference is whether it refers to students neither of whose parents attended vs. graduated from a four-year college. Using the completion standard, 25-50% of all college students are First Generation; in community colleges, that numbers is estimated to be 75%. These percentages are significant and would seem encouraging when thinking that so many students in college are taking a different educational path than their parents did (or were able to), however, enrollment does not equate to completion. Unfortunately, FGCSs do not graduate at the same rates as student's who have at least one parent who completed a college education. The discrepancy exists even when accounting for factors such as academic preparation, achievement scores, and high school grades. Being First Generation does not only impact the student who may have little guidance when making the decision to pursue a college education; it impacts the families who may wish to help but do not have the knowledge or experience to offer guidance and may themselves encounter anxiety as their student ventures into unfamiliar territory. Narrowing the college experience knowledge gap between FGCSs and Continuing Generation College Students can help universities narrow the achievement gap between the two groups. The purpose of this descriptive project is three-fold, (1) To identify factors that may impede FGCSs and underrepresented students from successfully transitioning to and completing college, (2) to determine and describe the structure of a handbook that informs current/potential Texas State students and their families about the college experience and identifies available resources to overcome college challenges, and (3) to develop a handbook that Texas State can use as a recruitment tool and that students and parents can use as a guide through the student's selection of and transition to college.


An Applied Research Project Submitted to the Department of Political Science, Texas State University-San Marcos, in Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Public Administration, February 2010.


first generation students, college education, underrepresented students, Public Administration


Amaya, I. (2010). How first-generation college and underrepresented students can overcome obstacles to attaining a college education: Handbook for a new family tradition. Masters of Public Administration, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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