Capital & Completion: Examining the Influence of Cultural Wealth on First-Generation College Student Outcomes Open Access

This quantitative study examined the experiences of first-generation college students and the influence of cultural wealth capital on their college outcomes. The study analyzed secondary data from The Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative data set capturing the high school, college and early post-secondary education experiences and outcomes of high school sophomore students in 2002 over a 10-year span, including college and early career outcomes. The scope of the data was narrowed to only examine students that indicated they were first-generation college students. Using Tara Yosso’s (2005) Community Cultural Wealth model as the conceptual framework, and, using factor analysis, the study operationalized two forms of capital from the model: aspirational capital and navigational capital. Both linear and logit regression analysis were used in examining this relationship between the capital constructs and college pipeline outcomes (enrollment, persistence and graduation) for first-generation college students. The study found that for every one standard deviation increase of aspirational capital, first-generation college students were found to be 28.5% more likely to enroll in college. Additionally, for every one standard deviation of aspirational capital, first-generation students were 25.6% more likely to persist through to their fourth semester college, a time when first-generation college students are found to be most likely to drop out of college. The dissertation includes a robust discussion of outcomes and related recommendations for theory, practice and policy.


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