Families’ and Universities’ Role in Student Motivation & Success in Higher Education

Hailey Freeman, Western Oregon University

This presentation was delivered on May 28, 2020 at Western Oregon University Academic Excellence Showcase (Monmouth, OR).


First-generation and low-income college students have a disproportionately higher rate of dropping out of college, never returning to college after their initial leaving, and choosing to attend less prestigious universities than their wealthier and more experienced peers. This is found in the study done by Cataldi, Bennett, and Xianglei in 2018. Studies have shown that there are multiple reasons to explain this discrepancy. The first being that first-generation and low-income students generally have family members that haven’t been to college, which impacts the student’s self-drive and feelings of worthiness of college attendance (Riggs, L. 2015), as well as their ability to ask their families for help (Mitchall and Jaeger, 2018). Another reason being that these families can be less involved in their students' path into higher-education, which can impact their readiness and motivation (Mitchall and Jaeger, 2018). Lack of knowledge and understanding of campus resources, commonly found in first-generation students, is also a reason for the discrepancies' existence (Soria and Stebleton, 2010). Imposter theory is another reason why many college students may undermine their abilities and thus do poorly in their academic careers, as first-generation and low-income students are more accustomed to feeling out-of-place and excluded in the self-determination side of university life. Thus, these findings suggest that, to close this gap between student success and failure, colleges and the student’s families need to be more involved in their student’s academic life, and their unique struggles in the pursuit of higher education.


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