Date of Graduation

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

College/School

School of Education

Department/Program

International and Multicultural Education

First Advisor

Patricia Mitchell

Second Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Third Advisor

Uma Jayakumar

Abstract

First-generation college-bound students (FGCBS), students whose parents do not have a college degree, are at a disadvantage during the preparation for and enrollment in 4-year colleges, according to the literature. A majority of these students either never enter 4-year colleges, or enroll in 2-year colleges and never complete a bachelor's degree. With the demand in the work force for college degrees, much research has been conducted on understanding the experiences of these students. Previous research has focused on college counseling for FGCBS within public schools, traditionally low-resourced public schools, as this is where most FGCBS are enrolled.

This study addresses a void in the literature by focusing on the college-counseling experiences of FGCBS enrolled in private schools, which are schools that traditionally send close to 100% of their graduates to 4-year colleges. The key question is whether FGCBS in private schools experience a gap in resources and outcomes despite college counseling opportunities comparable to those of their non-FGCB peers.

This case study focused on FGCBS in two private high schools in San Francisco. A survey adapted from the CHOICES Project at UCLA was used to survey 156 seniors at both schools (74% response rate) about their college-counseling experience. Additionally, five FGCBS at each school were interviewed and all three college counseling staff at each school were interviewed. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analyzed.

The major findings from the study complement previous research about FGCBS, extending knowledge of students' experiences from the public school to the private school sphere. Four main constructs were addressed throughout the study: students' educational aspirations, students' perceived access to resources, barriers to 4-year college, and students performance indicators. First, FGCBS' educational aspirations were found to be no different than non-FGCBS: FGCBS had high aspirations to attend college and, in fact, they had similar aspirations as non-FGCBS to attend selective colleges. Second, perceived access to resources of FGCBS statistically were no different than non-FGCBS, but through interviews, it was evident that FGCBS did not feel as comfortable taking advantage of the resources they knew were available within the school, resulting in them not having the same level of information and support during the college application process. Third, many perceived barriers to a 4-year degree were identified. Through both quantitative statistical and qualitative methods, there was a difference in perceived barriers to a 4-year degree, where FGCBS identified more barriers to this goal than non-FGCBS. They identified many barriers consistent with the literature, such as lack of parental educational capital and lack of financial capital. Additionally, there was a statistical difference between perceived barriers between FGCBS enrolled at each high school, where FGCBS at Woodcrest identified more barriers than FGCBS at Stoneholt. It is interesting because at Woodcrest the students were taught and encouraged to realistically face their situation as FGCBS and at Stoneholt their first-generation status was not really addressed through college counseling. All the FGCBS faced the same barriers but only their perception differed. Fourth, performance was assessed. Overall, despite lower test scores and lower GPAs than non-FGCBS, and a difference of GPAs between the FGCBS at the two high schools (Stoneholt FGCBS had lower GPAs), 100% of FGCBS at both high schools graduated and enrolled in 4-year colleges for the fall.

Several recommendations arose that need further research concerning the role of college counselors in order to improve success rates for FGCBS. College counselors should be trained in financial aid information, FGCBS should start the college counseling process sooner than their non-FGCBS counterparts and college counselors should give extra attention to FGCBS to compensate for the lack of parental educational and financial capital. The bigger question still to be explored is how the private school structure itself contributed to the findings and therefore how it can be changed in order to better support the counseling staff to ultimately support FGCBS better.

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