Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Chair; Christopher B. Newman, PhD, Member; Paula S. Krist, PhD, Member


Bachelor's degree, college counselors, continuing generation students, first generation students, higher education, high school curriculum, Leadership studies, level of knowledge, persistence, quantitative, retention, siblings, universities


Colleges and universities have recently been under great pressure to increase institutional graduation rates, due to a surge in consumer demand for accountability and the use of graduation rates to deter nine effectiveness and funding. Many colleges may choose to achieve higher graduation rates by simply increasing selectivity. However, this strategy has the potential to exclude at-risk student populations, namely first generation students, who lack a family track record of college completion and have been shown to be less likely to graduate than continuing generation students. To allow for continued access for first generation students, institutions have the ability to design initiatives based on an extensive framework of salient factors identified in the literature; however, there is a critical need to identify which factors have the greatest influence on first generation degree attainment. As such, this quantitative study examined how factors influencing student success vary for first and continuing generation students through an analysis of a nationally representative dataset from the 2004/2009 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study. Several logistic regression models were employed to identify differences in degree completion predictors for three groups of students: first generation students whose parents did not attend college, first generation students whose parents attended some college, and continuing generation students. Theoretical models of student persistence and attainment informed variable selection. Results revealed differences in the significant predictors of bachelor's degree completion for the three groups of students. For example, taking a rigorous high school curriculum predicted degree completion for both groups of first generation students, but not for continuing generation students. Consulting a college guide was a significant predictor only for students whose parents did not attend college. Having a sibling attend college first increased the likelihood of graduating for students whose parents did not attend college and continuing generation students. Taken together, these findings suggest predictors of degree completion vary for first and continuing generation students and indicate a student's level of knowledge about the college going experience plays a role in degree completion for first generation students. The findings support colleges and universities developing distinct student success initiatives for these groups of students.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies