Educational interventions for first-generation students

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Educational interventions for first-generation college students (FGCS) are programs intended to provide resources and make education more attainable and desirable for FGCS and their families. A study by Alex Casillas has identified that "FGCS […] face greater pressure not to go to college, either because of a lack of role models or because of pressure to contribute to their family’s financial needs."[1] Many interventions are being explored to lower and/or remove the fears and struggles FGCS face regarding their education. These interventions are intended to bridge the gap between FGCS and their educational experience by providing them with the access to information and resources their non-first-generation peers already have. This article discusses three of the programs currently being implemented, including AVID, GEAR-UP, and after-school programs.

First-generation college students[edit]

FGCS are defined as those whose parents’ highest level of education is a high school diploma.[2] This group of students is getting larger in the United States at the same time as educational opportunities become more accessible to students on high school campuses. There are educational interventions that have been found to help FGCS from immigrant families reach higher education. A descriptive analysis was conducted to examine how several variables influence the persistence and attainment rates of first-generation college students compared to non-first generation college students. The researchers were interested in the effects that gender, age, socioeconomic status, race-ethnicity, and institutional type had on the persistence and attainment rates of first-generation college students. Results from the analysis concluded that first-generation college students persisted and attained postsecondary degrees at significantly lower rates than students whose parents did graduate from college. Educational interventions for FGCS have included interventions like AVID, GEAR-UP, and after–school programs.

AVID program[edit]

The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program has become a national educational intervention for first-generation college students in U.S. public middle and high schools. The AVID curriculum was developed on the foundation of research developed and presented by David T. Conley in his book College Knowledge,[3] which states that American education consists of two systems created independently of each other (high school and college), that have not worked collaboratively to benefit all students regardless of their race-ethnicity or socioeconomic status. AVID’s goal is for all of their students to gain acceptance into a 4-year university course. In order to achieve this goal, AVID's curriculum was developed in alignment with David T. Conley’s Knowledge and Skills for University Success (KSUS) Standards. Conley’s KSUS Standards recommend that students complete the course requirements that have been created in collaboration with U.C./C.S.U. schools as a result of this research.

In addition, a quasi-experimental research design was used to explore the effects the AVID program had on students' attitudes toward school, self-efficacy, self-reported grades, time spent on homework, educational goals, and academic motivation. Two schools were randomly assigned to the AVID program while one school continued with the traditional high school curriculum. The study found significant differences between the schools that implemented the AVID program and the one that did not. Results found the AVID program students spent significantly more time on homework and on college plans than students from the school that did not implement AVID as an educational intervention.[4] AVID has significantly increased the number of FGCS accepted into college (Swanson et. al., 1993).[5]

GEAR-UP Program[edit]

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR-UP) is another evidence-based intervention that promotes higher education for low-income students in U.S. public middle schools. GEAR-UP is a federally-funded program that has been implemented nationwide at schools in low-income neighborhoods. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, parents and students who attended a GEAR-UP school have increased knowledge concerning routes to higher education. In addition, the researchers found that GEAR-UP students enrolled more often in algebra and more advanced sciences classes in the 8th grade than non-GEAR-UP students.[6]

After-school programs[edit]

After-school programs may also be used as a form of educational intervention for FGCS. Programs after school provide students with additional opportunities to be part of the school culture. There are programs like Umoja to help give back to the community and help people succeed in life by uplifting others.[7] The Bridge Project study examined the academic and psychosocial effects on students who participated in an after-school program for 25 English-language-learner Mexican immigrant children, from prekindergarten through 6th grade . The results of the study found children’s reading comprehension increased by an average of 2.8 grade levels and their English proficiency by an average of 2.8 California English Language Development Test levels over a 2-year period.[8]


  1. ^ "First Generation College Students Face Challenges in Achieving a Degree". ACT Center for Equity in Learning. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
  2. ^ Nunez, A.M., Cuccaro-Alamin, S., & Carroll, C.D. (1998). First-generation students: Undergraduates whose parents never enrolled in postsecondary education. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
  3. ^ Conley, D.T. (2005). College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and what We Can Do to Get Them Ready. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  4. ^ Black, Anne C., Little, Catherine A., McCoach, D. Betsy, Purcell, Jeanne H., & Siegle, Del. (2008). Advancement via Individual Determination: Method Selection in Conclusions about Program Effectiveness. Journal of Educational Research, 102(2), 111-124.
  5. ^ Swanson, M. C., Mehan, H., & Hubbard, L. (1993, December). The AVID classroom: A system of academic and social supports for low-achieving students. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED368832)
  6. ^ Standing, Kim, United States. Department of Education. Policy Program Studies Service, & Westat, Inc. (2008). Early outcomes of the GEAR UP program: Final report. Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service.
  7. ^ "Umoja Practices". Umoja Community. 2018-07-04. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
  8. ^ McElvain, Cheryl Marie. (2015). The Bridge Project: Connecting Home, School, and Community for Mexican Immigrant Children. Journal of Latinos and Education, 14(3), 153-170.