Research by IHE professor Rob Toutkoushian and two IHE students on what is meant by the term “first-generation student” was reported in a recent Inside Higher Ed article, following a presentation on their findings at the 2015 ASHE conference.
Despite the widespread use of the term by educators and policy makers, “no one has defined what they mean by ‘first generation,’” says Toutkoushian, who used data from a nationally representative sample of students for his study, assisted by graduate students Rob Stollberg and Kelly Slaton.
Does a first-generation college student come from a home where neither parent earned a college degree? What if the parents attended college, but didn't graduate? Does it matter if it’s a biological parent that attended college or some other adult residing in their home? And what about siblings?
The definitional question matters because of mounting pressure to increase the rate of college attainment among U.S. adults. Toutkoushian’s research found that first-generation students – no matter how broadly or narrowly defined – are less likely to plan on taking a college entrance exam, apply to college and enroll.
The Inside Higher Ed article contains a link to the paper presented at ASHE.