First-Generation and Continuing-Generation College Students: A Comparison of High School and Postsecondary Experiences
By Jacob Martin
A brief analyzing the postsecondary experiences of first-generation and continuing-generation college students was recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report defined first-generation students as students whose parents both have had no postsecondary education experience and have a high school education or a lower level of educational attainment, and defined continuing-generation college students as students who have at least one parent who had some postsecondary education experience.
Key findings included:
- Among high school sophomores in 2002 who later went on to enroll at a postsecondary institution, 24% were first-generation college students, 34% were continuing-generation college students with at least one parent who had some postsecondary education experience but did not have a bachelor’s degree, and 42% were continuing-generation college students with at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree or a higher level of educational attainment.
- A larger percentage of first-generation college students than continuing-generation students came from lower earning households.
- 27% of first-generation students came from households making $20,000 or less compared to 6% of continuing-generation students.
- 50% of first-generation students came from households making $20,001 to $50,000 compared to 23% of continuing-generation students.
- Enrollment patterns varied among first-generation students as compared to continuing-generation students.
- 76% of first-generation college students first attended public postsecondary institutions, 16% first attended private, for-profit institutions, and 9% first attended private, nonprofit institutions.
- Continuing-generation college students were less likely to first attend public institutions (72%) and private, for-profit institutions (5%), but were more likely than first-generation students to attend private, nonprofit institutions (23%).
- First-generation college students were less likely than continuing-generation college students to attend highly selective 4-year institutions (6% vs. 28%) or moderately selective 4-year institutions (16% vs. 27%).
- 52% of first-generation students attended a 2-year institution, compared to 28%of continuing-generation students.
- Ten years after they were sophomores in high school, 42% of continuing-generation students had obtained a bachelor’s degree, compared to 20% of first-generation college students.
- 54% of first-generation college students and 45% of continuing-generation college students reported inability to afford continuing going to school as a reason for leaving college without a postsecondary credential.