Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Paper presented at the 45th annual meeting of the New England Educational Research Organization (NEERO), April 17-19, 2013, Portsmouth, NH.


The study explored reasons why Black, Hispanic, and Biracial, first generation high school seniors who wish to attend college, do not apply. The literature indicated that these populations have consistently lower rates of college enrollment and educational attainment than Whites and Asians (Ashburn, 2008). Enrollment challenges included deficiencies in the areas of academic readiness (Forster, 2006), college knowledge (Tierney & Venegas, 2009), parental engagement (Auerbach, 2007), access to guidance counselors (Farmer-Hinton & Holland, 2008), and social capital (Burleson, Hallett, & Park, 2008). Future growth rates in American higher education will be spurred by those who are least educated and most economically disadvantaged (Epstein & Parrot, 2009). ^ Research was conducted through the lens of social capital acquired through resources internal and external to school environments. The research questions explored how environmental factors positively or negatively influenced college aspirations, knowledge of college admissions and financial aid processes, and other enrollment challenges. ^ Phase one of this mixed methods sequential explanatory design study collected quantitative data from N=26 seniors from two high schools in New England using a 25 question college interest survey instrument. The survey results assisted with the selection of the final n=18 first generation students were "college eligible", but had not yet applied. The survey results also facilitated the development of focus group questions for phase two. Participants for the focus groups totaled n=11; five from one high school and six from the other. Focus group questions were designed to more fully examine quantitative data results. ^ Results were analyzed with frequencies, percents, means, and standard deviations to describe levels of college knowledge, parental involvement of college processes, perceptions of college preparedness, participation in readiness activities, and counselor access. Primary findings indicated that concerns about college financing were constant, parents had low levels of involvement with college processes, few students had engaged in college support programs, and students relied heavily on counselors for college assistance. ^ Potential actions focus on community based support networks to increase parent learning opportunities, developing a guide to assist with basic college processes, and access to college campuses to provide students with information and experiential learning opportunities.^



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