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A case study of exploring and assessing college experience on first-generation students in Taiwan

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Abstract:

Overview and Purpose
Along with the unprecedented expansion of tertiary education in Taiwan, the major initiatives for enhancing student access to postsecondary education have improved; however, the unbalanced structure among higher educational institutions (HEIs) in Taiwan continues to impact low-socioeconomic status and first-generation college students (Cheng & Jacob, 2012; Fu, 2000). This suggests that students with highly educated parents may have a distinct advantage over first-generation students and disadvantaged minorities in understanding the both value of college education and the college admissions process. As the Taiwanese higher education system navigates changes in breadth and diversity, more research is needed to understand what policy emphases and institutional practices either facilitate or impede opportunities for first-generation college students. Therefore, the present study intends to advance understanding of the influence that college experiences have on first-generation Taiwanese college students, and examine how their experiences in college lead to persistence decisions.

Theoretical Perspective
In general, research on first-generation college students falls into three perspectives (Liu & Lin, 2012; Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2004). The first perspective compares personal attributes of first-generation and non-first-generation college students, including precollege academic preparation and performance, demographic characteristics, socio-economic status, and college choices as well as educational aspirations (e.g., Stage & Hossler, 1989; Braxton & Hossler, 1995). The second perspective is represented by studies that attempt to understand how first-generation college students, typically viewed as having lower educational expectations and limited cultural and social capital when compared to their peers (e.g., Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; Huang, 2008), adopt a single or predominant set of norms to facilitate a smooth transition from high school to college. The third perspective focuses on outcomes for first-generation college students such as persistence and completion as well as employment opportunities beyond graduation (Liu & Lin, 2012; Liu, 2009; Pascarella et al., 2004; Pike & Kuh, 2005). Since first-generation college students enter college with a lower stock of cultural and social capital compared to their counterparts, it is critical for postsecondary institutions to examine current policy practices and to reassess whether the quality of college experiences potentially maximize the benefits of higher education for underserved populations in Taiwan.

Methodology
A pilot study was conducted using focus group interviews with a group of Taiwanese college students to explore the context, identify themes, and guide the design of a survey (Creswell, 2008). Following the preliminary qualitative analysis for the survey development and administration, multivariate analysis was performed for the quantitative analyses. Multivariate analysis provides an appropriate statistical method for explaining and predicting the relationships among independent variables in the prediction of the dependent measure (Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson, 2010; Tabachnick & Fidell, 2006).

Preliminary Findings
The participants in this study were first-year college students at a four-year private institution in North Taiwan. A total of 704 questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 23.5 percent; 79 percent of the returned questionnaires were usable. Preliminary results suggest that, when controlling for gender, parental educational attainments, and high school GPA, first-generation student status was found to have significant effects on the likelihood of student departure after the first year of college (F = 7.99, df = 13 and 526, p < .001). In particular, academic integration made the largest contribution associated with first-generation students who remained enrolled in college.

Limitations
The study was conducted at a single institution of North Taiwan (four-year private postsecondary institution) and drew on a particular period in students’ journey through college which represented a snapshot in time. Thus, the results may be generalized only to similar postsecondary institutions during the first to second year transition. Furthermore, the survey used in the present study is short, suggesting that it might not be comprehensive enough to capture the complexities of the student departure process which merits further investigation.

Significance of the Study
The current study provides a beginning; however, there is a need for much more investigation of (a) the college experiences of first-generation college students from a comprehensive perspective and (b) how institutional practices influence persistence decisions and degree attainment as well as early employment opportunities in the workforce. The issue of how the government and higher education institutions are to achieve equity in opportunities for all is a major concern in higher education policy formation. Because of the critical nature of this issue for achieving the goals of both social justice and educational equity in higher education, policy design and implementation should be empirically data-driven.

Author's Keywords:

first-generation college students, postsecondary access and persistence, equity
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Association:
Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
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http://www.cies.us


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MLA Citation:

Lin, Ching-Hui. and Shaw, Mahauganee. "A case study of exploring and assessing college experience on first-generation students in Taiwan" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p707529_index.html>

APA Citation:

Lin, C. and Shaw, M. , 2014-03-10 "A case study of exploring and assessing college experience on first-generation students in Taiwan" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p707529_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Overview and Purpose
Along with the unprecedented expansion of tertiary education in Taiwan, the major initiatives for enhancing student access to postsecondary education have improved; however, the unbalanced structure among higher educational institutions (HEIs) in Taiwan continues to impact low-socioeconomic status and first-generation college students (Cheng & Jacob, 2012; Fu, 2000). This suggests that students with highly educated parents may have a distinct advantage over first-generation students and disadvantaged minorities in understanding the both value of college education and the college admissions process. As the Taiwanese higher education system navigates changes in breadth and diversity, more research is needed to understand what policy emphases and institutional practices either facilitate or impede opportunities for first-generation college students. Therefore, the present study intends to advance understanding of the influence that college experiences have on first-generation Taiwanese college students, and examine how their experiences in college lead to persistence decisions.

Theoretical Perspective
In general, research on first-generation college students falls into three perspectives (Liu & Lin, 2012; Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2004). The first perspective compares personal attributes of first-generation and non-first-generation college students, including precollege academic preparation and performance, demographic characteristics, socio-economic status, and college choices as well as educational aspirations (e.g., Stage & Hossler, 1989; Braxton & Hossler, 1995). The second perspective is represented by studies that attempt to understand how first-generation college students, typically viewed as having lower educational expectations and limited cultural and social capital when compared to their peers (e.g., Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; Huang, 2008), adopt a single or predominant set of norms to facilitate a smooth transition from high school to college. The third perspective focuses on outcomes for first-generation college students such as persistence and completion as well as employment opportunities beyond graduation (Liu & Lin, 2012; Liu, 2009; Pascarella et al., 2004; Pike & Kuh, 2005). Since first-generation college students enter college with a lower stock of cultural and social capital compared to their counterparts, it is critical for postsecondary institutions to examine current policy practices and to reassess whether the quality of college experiences potentially maximize the benefits of higher education for underserved populations in Taiwan.

Methodology
A pilot study was conducted using focus group interviews with a group of Taiwanese college students to explore the context, identify themes, and guide the design of a survey (Creswell, 2008). Following the preliminary qualitative analysis for the survey development and administration, multivariate analysis was performed for the quantitative analyses. Multivariate analysis provides an appropriate statistical method for explaining and predicting the relationships among independent variables in the prediction of the dependent measure (Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson, 2010; Tabachnick & Fidell, 2006).

Preliminary Findings
The participants in this study were first-year college students at a four-year private institution in North Taiwan. A total of 704 questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 23.5 percent; 79 percent of the returned questionnaires were usable. Preliminary results suggest that, when controlling for gender, parental educational attainments, and high school GPA, first-generation student status was found to have significant effects on the likelihood of student departure after the first year of college (F = 7.99, df = 13 and 526, p < .001). In particular, academic integration made the largest contribution associated with first-generation students who remained enrolled in college.

Limitations
The study was conducted at a single institution of North Taiwan (four-year private postsecondary institution) and drew on a particular period in students’ journey through college which represented a snapshot in time. Thus, the results may be generalized only to similar postsecondary institutions during the first to second year transition. Furthermore, the survey used in the present study is short, suggesting that it might not be comprehensive enough to capture the complexities of the student departure process which merits further investigation.

Significance of the Study
The current study provides a beginning; however, there is a need for much more investigation of (a) the college experiences of first-generation college students from a comprehensive perspective and (b) how institutional practices influence persistence decisions and degree attainment as well as early employment opportunities in the workforce. The issue of how the government and higher education institutions are to achieve equity in opportunities for all is a major concern in higher education policy formation. Because of the critical nature of this issue for achieving the goals of both social justice and educational equity in higher education, policy design and implementation should be empirically data-driven.


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