Pathways to the Baccalaureate: A Longitudinal Study of Sequence Differences by Parents' Education Level
Thomas, Rebecca E
Croninger, Robert G.
Fries-Britt, Sharon L.
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This study identified and examined 12 postsecondary pathways that students with bachelor's degree aspirations followed based on the type of first institution enrolled (four-year, two-year, and for-profit), actions while in college (no movement, transfer, stop out, and transfer and stop out), and bachelor's degree attainment (1=yes) to determine whether pathways and attainment rates differed by parents' level of education. Movement along the 12 pathways was examined for first-generation (neither parent had any college experience), some-college (at least one parent had college experience, but no bachelor's degree), and continuing-generation (at least one parent earned a bachelor's degree) students. This study utilized data from the baseline and first two follow up surveys of the Beginning Postsecondary Survey 1996/2001 (BPS:96/01). Descriptive analyses were used to identify the pathways and to describe the similarities and differences among groups. Logistic regression analyses were used to determine whether attainment differences existed among groups at four-year and two-year institutions once control variables were considered. At least three conclusions may be drawn from the findings of this research study. First, in accordance with the findings of previous research (Adelman, 1999; 2006; Cabrera, Burkum, & La Nasa, 2005; Carroll, 1989), the results of this study suggest that the type of institution where a student initially enrolls matters. Students who begin their college careers at four-year institutions are more likely to earn a bachelor's degree. Second, the actions that students exhibit after enrolling also affect their likelihood of bachelor's degree attainment. Different actions matter more at certain types of institutions. Third, differential consequences existed for students who followed the most successful paths. Even when students followed the routes most closely associated with bachelor's degree attainment, continuing-generation students earned degrees at significantly higher rates than first-generation students. Path selection does not fully explain differences in bachelor's degree attainment among groups. These conclusions have implications for future research, policy, and practice.