Examine the impact of a federally funded program

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The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a federally funded program on the college entrance rates of first generation low-income students. Generally, many low-income students can realistically achieve their goal of successfully matriculating to college, after participating in TRiO Upward Bound. According to a U. S. Department of Education report (1999), only 35% of the program's participants remain in the program through high school graduation; however, a difference is made in the lives of a small group of students and it is those students that the program substantially benefits (U.S Department of Education, 2001).

Despite the long-term benefits of college attendance and graduation, many first-generation low-income students who participate in the TRiO - Upward Bound Program may never achieve their educational aspirations. As reported by the U. S. Department of Education (1999), participation in Upward Bound has little effect on the ability of students to succeed in post-secondary education. Nevertheless, the goal of the program is to develop the requisite skills to promote success in college through academics, motivation, positive reinforcement, and social interaction. Lack of preparation in these areas may cause students to forego college entrance, which increases the burden on social agencies, the criminal justice system, tax revenues, and an increase in the number of uneducated members of society that are unable to participate in a democratic form of government (Oakes, 2000). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the impact of a federally funded program on the college entrance rates of first-generation low-income students.

Historical Background

The Upward Bound Program (UBP) was created as part of our nation's war on poverty

in 1965. When a group of historically Black college presidents met with President Lyndon B.

Johnson, an effort was made to generate funds for African Americans and place Blacks into

higher education. The meeting resulted in the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO)

funding a program called Institute for Service to Education (ISE) which was designed to

conduct a pilot study at six Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These

post-secondary institutions were called precollege centers. The main purpose of the centers

was to assist students in developing the academic competencies for college study. Based on

the findings, President Johnson created Upward Bound to serve as a societal division for

students challenged by poverty.

The Upward Bound program was created through the Economic Opportunity Act of

1964 along with other Upward Bound programs such as the original Upward Bound, Veteran

Upward Bound, and the Upward Bound Math/Science program. These programs are governed

by the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Upward Bound program provides academic

assistance to disadvantaged students to sustain their matriculation in higher education.

Following the Authorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), the Upward Bound

programs were transferred to the Office of Higher Education Department Programs.

In 1995, the U. S. Department of Education gave $191 million in grants to 674

Upward Bound projects. Of this amount, $164 million was granted to 568 Upward Bound

programs. Burkheim et al. (1979) in a longitudinal study on the impact of Upward Bound

concluded that:

The Upward Bound program had an impact on educational aspirations,

post-secondary education progress and persistence. Impact appears to

be related to participation patterns of former participants; those with

participations patterns generally exhibited more positive outcomes than

those with non-participation patterns ...The greater overall progress of

participants is attributable to their greater rates of entry into post-secondary

education and to their propensity to attend four-year institutions. It can be

concluded that the Upward Bound program is effectively meeting its

mandated objectives to provide participants with the skills and motivation

necessary for entry and success in education beyond high school, (p. 133)

The U. S. Department of Education (1997) reported that the Upward Bound program

serves 42,000 students in more than 500 Upward Bound projects across the United States.

However, in 2001, with federal funds of more than $250 million, the regular Upward Bound

program served about 51,600 students nationwide in 727 projects. Approximately two-thirds

of each project's participants are from households that are low-income and neither parent has

attained a college degree.

The Upward Bound program continues to offer extensive academic instruction, counseling, and mentoring to disadvantaged students year-round and during the summer. The academic year component stresses goal setting and academic achievement. Activities include financial aid workshops, after school tutoring, school visits at target high schools, and field trips to various colleges for cultural and educational enrichment. The summer component, which lasts from five to eight weeks, includes classes on a college campus. These classes may include pre-calculus, foreign language, computer technology, English language arts, and various elective enrichment classes (Jones, 1999). This summer program provides Upward Bound program participants a vision of a future in higher education (Myers & Schirm, 1999). About 90% of students enrolled in the Upward Bound program are in the 9th grade and remain throughout high school. The Upward Bound program is generally conducted by two or four-year colleges and universities.

A report by the National Center for Education Statistics (1998) shows that Upward

Bound students are more likely to earn an undergraduate degree than their counterparts with

similar backgrounds who do not participate in an Upward Bound program. These students

face some of the greatest barriers to pursuing a postsecondary education. The program

often includes students from low socio-economic backgrounds where neither parent has

acquired a bachelor's degree. Often, the aforementioned students are of color (U.S.

Department of Education, 2001). Research from the U.S. Department of Education's

Mathematica Research Policy Report expounded on research from Jacobson, et al. (2001)

which shows that low postsecondary enrollment rates for first generation low income

students is a well-documented relationship between family, socioeconomic status,

ethnicity and high school academic preparation. Additionally, data from the National

Education Longitudinal Study (1988-94) as acknowledged by Lutz and Carroll (1998)

suggest that only half of low-income high school graduates are academically prepared to

attend four-year colleges or universities (Lutz & Carroll, 1998).

Supporting college attendance and degree attainment is a vital strategy in

developing productive citizens, especially those who are from first generation/low-

income families. This review of literature will focus on: first generation students and

college entrance rates, student age and college entrance rates, student gender and college

entrance rates, student ethnicity and college entrance rates, student socio-economic status

and college entrance rates, and parents' education level and college entrance rates.

First Generation College Entrance Rates and Gender

Beginning students who are first-generation enrollees are more likely than their non first-generation counterparts to be female (57%) versus 51% of non-first-generation female students (Nunez & Cuccaro-Alamin, 1998). According to Opportunity (2001), between 1967 and 2000, the college participation rate for males decreased from 33.1 to 32.6 percent. The corresponding rate for females increased from 19.2 to 38.4 percent during this same period. The increased rate for women occurred steadily throughout the 34 years between 1967 and 2000, although the growth appears to have passed since 1997.

There was no growth spurt for females. Mostly it was just steady growth blemished only by occasional statistical spikes, which turned out to be meaningless over the time period. The story for males, however, is completely different. The college participation rate for males peaked at 35.2 % in 1969, during the Vietnam War, when males were allowed exemption from the military draft in place at the time if they were enrolled in college on a full-time basis. Following the end of compulsory enrollment for military service in 1973, male college participation dropped to a low of 25.8 % in 1979, then increased to 35.0 percent in 1997 before falling back to 32.6 percent in 2000. Further research offered by Opportunity (2001) reports that males are 51 percent of the college-age population. In 1997-98 males received just 43.9 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded in the United States. This was the smallest proportion since 1946 when just 43.1 percent of the bachelor's degrees were awarded to males.

First Generation College Entrance Rates and Ethnicity

In 1996, 93% of European Americans, 86% of Asian Americans, 66% of African Americans, and 61 % of Hispanics were high school graduates (Saenz, Wyatt, & Reinard,

1998). The shortage of minorities continues at the collegiate level. In 1996, only 51% of

Hispanic high school graduates and 56% of Black high school graduates entered college, compared to 67% of White graduates (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1998).

Of the major population groups, Latino students have the highest rate of attendance at community colleges. Thus, the community college experience/associate degree experience is of great importance in tracking changes in educational attainment (Berkner & Chavez, 1997; Kaufman, Chavez, & Lauen, 1998; McMillen & Kaufman, 1998).

Membership lists of several leading early education organizations reveal that there is very little African American representation. Nadal (2000) attributes the low attendance rates of African American students to predominately White institutions not being culturally sensitive to the values and culture of these students, which makes it challenging for African American students to feel accepted.

Therefore, attendance rates for minority students are substantially lower than for White students. The U.S. Department of Education census (2001) shows that approximately 37 percent of the White population, 26 percent of the Black population, and 15 percent of the Hispanic population enrolled in four-year institutions when they reached the age to do so. The issue's urgency is sometimes obscured by statistics showing widespread access to "postsecondary" education, which includes institutions like community colleges and job-training and vocational programs. While those are an important part of our educational system, the public cares mostly about access to four-year institutions. They are the economic and cultural gateway that United States citizens value and want their children to experience.

First Generation College Entrance Rates and Socio-Economic Level

Thayer (2000) suggests the experience of first-generation students varies depending on their family income and their ethnicity. Those from middle-income families find adjustment to college less difficult than first-generation students from ethnic minority or low-income backgrounds (Thayer, 2000). There are differences between first- generation and traditional students with respect to their basic knowledge of college, personal commitment, and level of family support, with first-generation students being at a disadvantage in most cases (York-Anderson & Bowman, 1992). The contemporary student is no longer upper middle class, adolescent, or male; instead the proportion of working class and minority students has increased dramatically (London, 1992). Students whose social, personal, and cultural backgrounds have not adequately prepared them, often cannot readily adjust to the academic and social community of the campus (Buck,


Student aid plays a role in whether or not students will and can attend an institution of higher learning. Research by Dynarski (2003) asked the question "Does student aid increase college attendance or simply subsidize costs for infra-marginal students?" The question empirically is a challenge, because aid is correlated with many characteristics that influence educational investment decisions (Dynarski, 2003). Dynarski further notes, that the evidence suggests that aid has a 'threshold effect': a student who has crossed the hurdle of college entry with the assistance of aid is more likely to continue schooling later in life than one who has never attempted college. Forster (2006) shows attendance rates for minority students are substantially lower than for White students. According to the Department of Education, in 2003-2004 the average cost of tuition, room, and board was more than $10,700 at public colleges and over $25,200 at private ones. This does not automatically mean money is the most important obstacle to college. Millions of dollars in financial aid help students meet those costs. In 2003-2004, 76 percent of full-time students in four-year public colleges and 89 percent in private colleges were receiving aid of the same sort (Forster, 2006).

Tinto (1987) revealed that most students drop out of college because of financial, personal, or social problems. Upward Bound programs conduct financial aid workshops for parents and students to prevent low-income students from withdrawing from school. Also, the program assists students during their senior year in high school to search for scholarships and other monetary resources. Because many Upward Bound students come from low-income families, they are often forced to work while attending school (Mitchell, 1997). Through these program efforts, participants are encouraged to matriculate to college and obtain an undergraduate degree. Participating in Upward Bound can contribute to building stronger academic and social skills.

First Generation College Entrance Rates and Parents' Education Level

Research by Tym et al. (2004) indicates that students whose parents did not attend college are more likely than their non first-generation counterparts to be less academically prepared for college, to have less knowledge of how to apply for college, and for financial assistance, and to have more difficulty in acclimating themselves to college once they enroll. If these students attend college, it is usually on a part-time basis, because they are working full time while enrolled in college. Targeted intervention efforts that reach out to first-generation students both before and during college can help mitigate the differences between first-generation and non first-generation students and can help colleges reach their goal of recruiting and retaining all students (Tym, et al., 2004).

Educational expectations of students vary by parents' education as early as 8th grade. Only 55 percent of 1992 high school graduates whose parents had not attended college aspired in 8th grade to obtain a bachelor's degree, compared to 71 percent and 91 percent, respectively, of 8th graders whose parents had attended college or who had a bachelor's degree. Similarly, the likelihood of these three groups taking the SAT or ACT in high school was 25 percent, 42 percent, and 73 percent, respectively (Choy, 2001).

Survey of Surrounding "Feeder" Colleges and Universities - Office of Admissions, Fall 2006; National Center for Education Statistics, 2004, report some 92.3%, or 13,695 adults 25 years of age and over in the southeast region of Texas' TRiO - Upward Bound Program, lack a baccalaureate degrees. Moreover, the educational aspirations of "eligible" high school students in a southeast region of Texas have been stymied by the low college-going rate (16.9%) of their peers.

Families of first-generation students sometimes discourage them from going to college and this can lead to alienation from family support. First-generation students are also susceptible to doubts about their academic and motivational abilities; they may think they are not capable of succeeding in college. Overcoming these personal challenges is crucial to a successful transfer to a four-year college (Striplin, 1999). College enrollment rates vary considerably with parents1 educational attainment. In 1999, 82 percent of students whose parents held a bachelor's degree or higher enrolled in college immediately after finishing high school. The rates were much lower for those whose parents had completed high school, but had no college (54%) and even lower for those whose parents had less than a high school diploma (36%) (The Condition of Education,

2001). The educational aspirations of some students are likely to be negatively impacted

by as many of their parents who lack a diploma and/or any educational experience beyond high school. Equally, lower educational expectations figure prominently in the lower postsecondary enrollment rates of students whose parents did not go to college (The Condition of Education, 2001).

According to Swail and Perna (2000), there is a difference in enrollment rates among students whose parents did not go to college and those whose parents attended an institution of higher learning. First generation students are one of the most frequently targeted groups (along with ethnic minorities and low income students) for outreach programs designed to raise the level of student preparation and readiness for postsecondary matriculation (Swail & Perna, 2000).


An Ex Post Facto research design (see Figure 1) was utilized in this investigation.

This type of research design provided the investigator with the opportunity to examine

the influence of independent variables which cannot be manipulated on the dependent

variables as well as to identify the variable worthy of experimental investigation (Gay,

1996). This type of research design involved at least two groups of individuals who are

different on some independent variable and at least two groups of individuals who were

comparable on a dependent variable (Gay, 1996). Thus, the above advantages offered by

the Ex Post Facto design provided the investigator of the current study with the

methodological paradigm to analyze the effect of a federally funded program and selected

variables on college entrance rates of first generation low-income students. This study

was conducted in the urban metropolitan area of a large urban city in southeast Texas,

focusing primarily on two school districts.

A local devised instrument entitled "Hughes -TRiO - Upward Bound Program

Participant Profile Sheet" was used to gather data for this study. During the fall 2006, the researcher gathered participants' data from the local Blumen database which consisted of participants' age, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. Then the researcher gathered information from the National Student Clearinghouse Database to assemble information on each participant's post-secondary matriculation status. Upon gathering information needed from both databases, the researcher had the pertinent information needed for the study.

The researcher used the statistical application from the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to treat the data. Finally, to determine if there were significant differences in the research questions, a Chi Square Goodness-of-Fit Test and the Chi Square Test of Independence was utilized to determine the relationship between these variables as they relate to the impact of a federally funded program on college entrance rates by gender, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and parents' educational level. The significance was tested at the .05 level or better.

The sample population consisted of 231, first-generation college students who participated in the TRiO - Upward Bound Program in the southeast region of Texas. A locally devised instrument entitled "Hughes ~ TRiO-Upward Bound Program Participant Profile Sheet" was used to collect the data.

Figure I: A Basic Ex Post Facto Design


Independent Variable

Dependent Variable






(E) = Experimental Group; (C) indicates no manipulation

(C) = Control Group

(X) = Independent Variable

(O) = Dependent Variable


Regarding the variable gender, ninety-four or 40.7% of the respondents were male. In comparison, there were one-hundred thirty-seven or 59.3% female participants (See Table 1).

Table 1

Frequency Distribution of Participants by Gender














The sample was divided into three different age groups of first-generation college students for this study. One hundred-ten or 47.6% of the students were between the ages 17 and 20. Eighty or 34.6% of the participants were between the ages of 21 and 24. Finally, forty-one or 17.8% of the participants were between 25 and 28 (See Table 2).

Table 2

Frequency of Distribution of Participants by Age

















The variable ethnicity was categorized into four subgroups for this investigation.

Two hundred or 90% of the participants expressed their ethnicity as African American.

Nineteen or 8.2% indicated their ethnic status as Hispanic American and one or .5% was

Asian American. Finally, three or 1.3% identified themselves as "other" (See Table 3).

Table 3

Frequency of Distribution of Participants by Ethnicity




African American



Hispanic American



Asian American









An independent-sample Chi-Square Test of Independence was used to determine if a relationship existed between the socioeconomic status of first-generation low-income students and their college entrance rates. As indicated in Table 9, 152 or 84.4% of first generation students in the very low socioeconomic group, 14 or 87.5% in the moderate low socioeconomic group and 37 or 100% in the low socioeconomic group did attend college. By contrast, 27 or 15.2%, 2 or 12.5% and 0 or 0 percent respectively did not attend college. Based on the aforementioned results, a statistically significant relationship was found to exist between first-generation students' socioeconomic status and their college entrance rates (X2 = 6.420, df = 2, p < .05) at the .05 level.

Accordingly, hypothesis five was rejected. Further data analysis employing the contingency correlation revealed that a weak moderate positive relationship (c = .164) existed between the socioeconomic status and college entrance rates among first- generation college students.

Table 9

Chi Square Results Regarding the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and its Impact on the College Entrance Rates of First-Generation Low-Income Students and Socioeconomic Status (SES)









Very Low SES









Moderately Low SES























X2 = 6.420, df = 2, p = .040*

* Significant at the .05 level

Table 10 indicates the relationship between the first-generation low-income

student's parents' education level find their college entrance rates employing the Chi-

Square Test of Independence. One hundred eighty eight or 87.4% of the low-income

students who matriculated reported that their parents did not graduate from college. In

comparison, twenty-seven or 12.6% of these same students indicated that their parents

did graduate from college. On the other hand, twenty-seven out of the twenty-nine

students who did not matriculate revealed that their parents did not complete college

while two said their parents completed college. A statistically significant relationship did

not exist between students' parents1 education level and college entrance rates at the .05

level (X2 = .0001, df = l, p = .999). Therefore, hypothesis six was not rejected.

Table 10

Chi Square Results Regarding the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and Its Impact on the College Entrance Rates of First-Generation Low-Income Students and Parents' Education Level
































X2 = .0001, df = l, p= .999


One of the most significant findings of this study was the influence of participation in a federally funded program on the college entrance rates of first generation low-income students. To be sure, a significant relationship was found between participation in a federally funded program and the college entrance rates of first generation low-income students. This finding is consistent with those of Allen (1994), Alessi, Boubin, Hegeman and Alexander (1994), Brewer et al (2000), Gunter (2002), Stokes and Hodge (2000), Lutz and Carroll (1998) Swail and Perna (2000), Riehl (1994), Thayer (2000), and the Upward Bound Report (2004). All of these researchers reported in their academic work that low-income first-generation students who participated in some type of federally funded programs were more likely to attend college than those who did not participate in such programs. A plausible explanation for this finding might be that students who participate in federally funded programs are more involved in educational activities that fit them individually and that enhance their level of motivation to achieve academically. Thus, once these students recognize their potential, they are motivated to achieve any learning task, which cultivates their chance of going to college.

Another notable finding of this study pertained to the influence of parents' education level on the college going rates of first-generation low-income students. Specifically, parents' education level was not significantly related to the college entrance rates of first-generation students. This finding did not parallel those of Moore (1997), Myers and Schirm (1999), Tucker (1992), and Griffin (1996). The research reported by the aforementioned researchers revealed that parents' education level was a significant predictor of the college entrance rates of students. Moreover, a reasonable explanation for the current finding might be that the majority of students who attended the TRiO program at the targeted institution come from similar home and family environments which tend to shape their self-worth, competence, autonomy and self-efficacy regarding their pursuit of college study. Because of their similarities, these students share similar attitudes toward learning. As a result the conclusions drawn from this study revealed that socioeconomic status produced a significant effect on the college entrance rates of first generation low-income students, and parents' educational level did not produce a significant impact on the college entrance rates of first-generation low-income students.