First in My Family: Perceived Family Support and Impact on First-Generation College Students within a Community College Cohort Program Setting

Jennifer K. Boehmer

CST 525: Advanced Interpersonal Communication Capstone Project

Abstract

Given the vast increase in the number of jobs predicted to require a post-secondary credential, it has never been more important to earn a college degree in America. Yet for first-generation college students (FGs), the chances of dropping before reaching graduation hover around 89%. While a variety of factors influence this stark reality, family support plays a central role. By definition, FG students face an identity shift away from the familiar family construct toward a new economic and social class, and yet, family support has been shown to be critical in helping FGs make the college choice. At the same time, once the student enters college, family has a tendency to become a source of anxiety due to lack of academic experience. While many studies have examined support needs of FGs, few have been conducted within a community college setting, and even fewer within community college cohort programs designed for FGs specifically. This study examines the relationship between perceived family support and adaptation to college within such a setting. Participants included 59 students answering a survey based on the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) scale, and the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ). Findings showed that there was no significant correlation between family support and adaptation to college, which raises questions about the differing needs of FGs at community colleges, and emphasizes the need to conduct research in community college cohort programs specifically. The author discusses these results in light of the nation's "Completion Agenda" call for educational reform aimed at increasing college success rates.