The Relationship between College Interventions and First-Generation Students’ Academic Success at a Large Urban Tier-I Institution



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Background: Access to and success in higher education has been a challenge for many first-generation students. When compared with continuing-generation students, first- generation students are more likely to drop out of college or persist and graduate at a lower rate than their counterparts. To address issues with lower retention and graduation rates, higher education institutions have adopted the “one-size fits all” approach. This approach is alarming because it does not address the specific constraints of college success for first-generation students. Purpose: This study explored the potential contribution of college intervention programs on first-generation students’ grade point average (GPA) and the number of credit hours earned. Research Questions: The study was guided by the following questions: (1) Are there differences between first-generation students who participated in college intervention programs? Specifically, is there a significant difference between first-generation students' academic success as measured by GPA and the number of credit hours earned? (2) What is the difference, if any, between first-generation college students' academic success as measured by GPA and the number of credit hours earned on campus versus the academic success of students living off- campus? Method: A total of 7,742 young adults between the ages of 17 and 21 years old who were considered first-generation students (neither parent have a bachelor’s degree or higher) were included in the study. This correlation study sought to determine if there was a relationship between the type of intervention and GPA and the number of credit hours earned for first-generation students at the University of Houston, a Tier I university. The independent variables of the study were multiple intervention programs embedded under one umbrella. Included were programs such as first-year seminar courses, an on-campus residential experience, mentoring programs, and other programs designated to support first-generation students’ success. The dependent variables were GPA and number of credit hours. The data were retrieved from EAB Navigate, which is a student success management system that the university uses to track student success from enrollment to graduation. The data analysis was performed using SPSS. The statistical methods used in this study included an ANOVA, descriptive statistics, and an independent t-test. Results: The results show that first-generation students who participated in a first-year seminar course or lived in student housing on campus had higher GPAs than those who did not. These findings support current literature focused on first-generation students and highlight the influence of high-impact interventions on their academic success. Conclusion: The results of the study are in line with the literature and underscore the need to support first-generation students. Overall, the findings suggest that participation in first-year seminars and housing experiences may support first-generation students’ academic success as measured by GPA beyond that of their peers who do not participate in such interventions.



College access, Continuing-generation student, Economically disadvantaged, First-generation student, First-time-in-college (FTIC), First-year experience, First-year seminar course, High-Impact Program, Intervention, Low-income, Living-learning Communities (LLC), Retention, Persistence, Support services