The Impact Of A Federally Funded Program Education Essay

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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).

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) asserts that first-generation low-income students are less prone to seek a post-secondary education (NCES, 1998). With the support of federally funded initiatives such as TRiO - Upward Bound, students are assisted in successfully entering post-secondary institutions and obtaining a degree. Under the Upward Bound Program, the Department of Education awards discretionary grants to institutions of higher education, public and private agencies and organizations, and a combination of institutions to refine skills and to provide motivation necessary for the educational success of participants.

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As mandated by government, the Upward Bound Program (UBP) was created to serve students that are challenged by poverty. In a study conducted by the Research Triangle Institute, it was concluded that TRiO - Upward Bound students were positively impacted by the program (Burkheimer, French, Levisohn, & Riccobono, 1979); and another study by Mathematica Policy Research (1997) found that Upward Bound students enrolled in more academic courses while in high school compared to non- program participants. Therefore, the need for Upward Bound is great. The current investigation confirms the effectiveness of the Upward Bound program as it relates to first-generation low-income students' matriculation to post-secondary institutions.

Moreover, the findings from this study can provide post-secondary institutions and the U. S. Department of Education with information regarding the effectiveness of the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and its impact on college entrance rates of first- generation low-income students. Furthermore, the study helps to inform the community, parents, school leaders, and politicians of the validity and continued support needed for federally funded programs for low-income students.

Characteristics of First Generation Low-Income Students

Billson and Terry (1982) described first generation low-income college students as students whose parents have had no college or university experience. These students have been defined as having a background of lower levels of formal education (Bean & Metzner, 1985). Another characteristic of first generation low-income college students, those for whom neither parent had a 4-year college degree, is they are often minorities that come from poor and working-class families (Jones & Watson, 1990; Mitchell, 1977, Pardon, 1992). To be successful in college, these students must overcome economic disadvantages as well as academic disadvantages.

Many first generation low-income college students come from urban public schools with poor academic programs (Fallon, 1997). Students' academic success in high school does not necessarily mean that they are prepared to enter college. They may not have taken college preparation courses or received assistance from school counselors in preparing them for college matriculation. Therefore, these students' score lower on college entrance examinations. While first generation low-income students face academic challenges, they are aware of the effort it takes to succeed in college. Other characteristics of this group of students include:

lower reading and math skills (Mitchell, 1997; Richardson & Skinner, 1992; Terenzini, et al., 1996); 2) lower self-expectations with regard to level of degree attainment (Riehl, 1994; Terenzini, et al., 1996); 3) discouragement from lower teacher expectations in college and in high school (Richardson & Skinner, 1992); 3) high drop-out rates during the first semester of college (Riehl, 1994); 4) longer time needed to finish degree programs due to intermittent, part-time attendance (Zwerling, 1992); 5) tendency to take fewer humanities courses and more technical training classes (Terenzini ,et al., 1996); and 6) less time for extracurricular activities (Grayson, 1995).

According to the U. S. Department of Education (1995), first-generation college students' enrollment is generally delayed immediately after high school at a significantly higher rate of 29% compared to 73% for students whose parents have obtained a four- year undergraduate degree. Many parents of first generation low-income students do not value a college education or see the need for such. These parents expect their child to leave high school and seek employment. Students often hear "to succeed in the workforce, one must seek and attain a higher education". First generation low-income students are often reared in poverty stricken areas and they feel that if they attempt college, they will no longer fit into the surroundings of their upbringing. However, the most important support system for first generation low-income students is the parent(s). The fact that parents of first generation low-income college students lack first-hand knowledge of the college experience, poses a barrier for these students (Dennis, 2005). Though some parents may not have knowledge or college experience, their support for college entrance is important to the student's success. Mitchell (1997) asserts that all students make adjustments when they enter college, but first generation low-income students face greater academic and social demands. According to McCants (2004), outreach programs can play a special role in working with schools to transform the success of economically disadvantaged students.

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A longitudinal study conducted by Nunez and Cuccaro-Alamin (1998), compared the college experience and outcomes of first generation low-income students with that of their counterparts. The findings indicated that:

First generation low-income students were more likely to be older, be married, and have dependents more often than non-first generation students; 2) First generation low-income students were less likely than their peers to matriculate to 4-year colleges or universities; 3) First generation low-income students were more likely to take developmental courses; and 4) Overall, first generation students were not persistent in attaining a college education.

Motivation of Upward Bound Participants

Brophy (1982) defines motivation as the tendency to approach tasks with serious intent, to do them carefully and to get the benefit from them, not merely to complete them. According to Dewey (1959), a child's own instincts and powers furnish the material and starting point for education. Banks, McQuarter, and Sonne (1995) state that the presence or absence of what is commonly called intrinsic motivation may correspond directly to the interest value of a task for a given individual. According to Banks et al., activities and their relative stimulus contexts may be associated in the experience of an individual with certain import reinforcements, particularly those of parental approval and the general support and regard of one's immediate reference community. These researchers further expressed the need to examine the given activity or stimulus situation to evoke and maintain or otherwise create a secondary reinforcement behavior in the absence of extrinsic rewards. According to Banks et al., motivation may be directly related to earlier learning of the individual and to the immediate value structure of the social context. On the other hand, Deming (1993) states that organizational culture promotes motivation in people. Deming also suggests that the organization provides activity that stimulates students to succeed, by becoming a secondary source of motivation.

Maslow (1943) presented a hierarchy of needs divided into groups that are satisfied physiologically, socially, or through safety, and those that are satisfied in a more personal peculiar mannerism. The higher needs represent self-respect and self-actualization. These needs are more associated with individualized needs. The need for self-actualization is individualized because it is unique to the individual. Maslow's theory is that the years of self-respect and self-actualization motivate behavior, but these drives, when examined from a human rather than an animal point of view, are extremely complex in origin and must be understood as being integrated with and affected by reality (Towns, 1996).

Deci and Ryan (1985) define intrinsic motivation as motivation based on the innate need for competence and self-determination. According to Deci and Ryan, intrinsic needs are not based in tissue deficits and they do not operate by pushing to be satisfied. Further, Deci and Ryan state that when people are free from the intrusion of drives and emotions, they seek situations that interest them and require the use of their creativity and resourcefulness. Maslow (1943) describes self-actualization as an intrinsic drive to meet one's full potential. This definition relates to the definition by Deci and Ryan (1985). However, according to Crump (1995), at the level of self-actualization, one is armed with a sense of curiosity and creativity and a belief in one's own worth and inextricably involved in a lifelong process of striving to reach and understand all that exists in one's world of experience.

Banks, McQuarter, and Sonne (1995) disagree with the myth that minority and low socioeconomic-class individuals fail to perform as effectively as White middle-class persons in the absence of tangible reinforcements. Banks et al. (1995) argue that intrinsic motivation comes from an individual's interests and his or her value orientation with regard to a specific task. In essence, the student is motivated to achieve when the level of interest and what the student deems important are aligned. It was also noted by Banks et al. that Black and White children approach achievement situations differently. Black children may perceive their efforts as relatively useless. The researchers believe that Black children perceive that efforts at achievement are relatively unrewarding and that the incentives for success are less reliable than the consequences of failure. In addition, Bandura (1999) stated that the greater the students' beliefs in their efficacy to regulate their motivation and learning activities, the more assured they are in their efficacy to master academic subjects. Zimmerman, Bandura, and Maartines-Pons (1999) purport that perceived academic efficacy, in turn, promotes intellectual achievement both directly and by raising academic aspiration.

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Webb and Baird (1980) ask the question, "How do we help unmotivated students become motivated?" Boone and Hill (1980) suggest that teachers should show interest in students and exhibit a positive approach to life and life situations. Boone states that educators can teach students how to be successful by teaching them how to set goals, formulate strategies for achieving goals, and implementing their plans successfully. A more effective approach to motivation is to help students build an intrinsic motivation to learn (Stipek, 1999; Boone & Hill, 1980; Webb & Baird, 1980). Furthermore, Cotton and Savard (1982) state that a key to increasing student motivation is to provide students with the experience of success. This requires that students be given developmentally appropriate learning tasks that are both challenging and meaningful so that they will be able to succeed. The positive feeling of success stimulates students to strive for success, at which point motivation becomes intrinsic (Cotton & Savard, 1982).

Gender, Race, and Family Income as Related to Motivation Educators have been interested in research that investigates how gender, race, and family income affect low-income students1 motivation, because of differences in academic achievement observed among males and females, racial and ethnic groups, and socioeconomic groups. These studies grouped gender, race, and family income under demographic variables and examined these as they relate to students' motivation to succeed in school.

Dole and Passons (1972) investigated how Black and White urban high school seniors were motivated to accomplish their life goals. The sample consisted of thirty-four (34) Black males, thirty-two (32) Black females, one hundred nineteen (119) White males, and one hundred fifty-seven (157) White females. The participants were interviewed after having completed the Vocational Sentence Completion Blank. It was concluded from the findings that when controlling for socioeconomic differences among the participants, significant differences in motivation were a function of gender rather than race.

Dielman, Barton, and Cattell (1973) investigated how gender, race, number of siblings, and father's education predict motivation. They administered the School Motivation Analysis Test to two hundred ninety-eight (298) urban and suburban junior high school students to collect the data. The researchers correlated the independent variables with motivation and found that a male whose father had attained a college degree was consistently related to high scores on the School Motivation Analysis Test.

Curry (1973) examined the influence of socioeconomic status on motivation for academic achievement of low-income high school students, as measured by grade point average. The sample population included two thousand seven hundred fifteen (2,715) participants (1070 White females, 332 Black females, 1087 White males, and 226 Black males) in rural and urban parochial and public schools. The findings revealed that socioeconomic origins of the students did not predict motivation to achieve high grades in high school. However, Black males and females had lower scores on motivation than did their White counterparts in both types of school settings. Additionally, White males had higher motivation scores at urban and rural schools; while, White females had higher motivation scores in urban parochial and public schools.

Willig, Harnisch, Hill, and Maehr (1983) sought to determine how student motivation affects scores on standardized math achievement tests. Their sample consisted of three hundred ninety-three (393) White, Black, and Hispanic elementary students in grades four through eight. The elementary schools were classified as urban, rural, and suburban. The researchers used a questionnaire to measure the participants' motivation and conducted cross-group analyses to find out how motivation affected standardized math achievement scores. The findings indicated that low motivation caused low academic achievement in all racial groups. It was concluded that participants who received very low motivation scores were most likely to come from families who were upper middle class and a fraction of a point away from the next income bracket, according to the U. S. Department of Education guidelines.

Castenell (1984) used a sample of three hundred and ten (310) eighth graders to determine how they differed in their motivation to be successful in school, peer, and home settings and how motivation varied as a function of race, socioeconomic status, and gender. The participants were from an urban school district. The participants completed two motivation questionnaires designed by the researcher and data were analyzed using factorial analysis. Castenell found that on school motivation, middle class White males scored higher than White females and Black males and females. Middle income White females scored higher than lower income Black females, and middle income Black males scored lower than lower income Black males. Furthermore, Black males scored higher on measures of motivation to succeed in peer settings, but there were no significant socioeconomic class differences on this measure. Surprisingly, Castenell and Tarule (1994) found that Black males scored higher in peer settings than other groups. He concluded that all adolescents do not perceive academic achievement as a necessary for life.

Hall, Merkel, Howe, and Lederman (1986) investigated possible antecedents for racial differences in junior high school students in academic achievement in science classes. The study included eighth graders in an urban and rural school district. The researcher obtained scores on math and reading achievement, attitude toward school success and motivation, and rated their classroom behavior as related to cooperation with teachers and participation. Researchers found that Blacks and Whites differed on mean achievement test scores and science grades. White males and females had higher scores and grades than Black males and females. Interestingly, the researchers found that teachers rated White students as smarter than Black students. Moreover, the teachers reported that Black females exerted the greatest effort and that Black males exerted the least effort in accomplishing school aspirations. Hall et al. noted that teacher perceptions may have influenced student grades on assignments and motivation to succeed in school.

Goodenow and Grady (1993) investigated the relationship of academic motivation and how comfortable students feel in their school environment. A sample of two hundred eighteen (218) urban students (one hundred fifty-eight males and one hundred thirty females representing Black, White, and Hispanic groups) were surveyed using a questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to gather information about how students valued schoolwork, general motivation towards school, expectations to succeed in junior high school and high school, and comfort with teachers and peer groups within the school setting. The findings indicated that students who expressed comfortable feelings with teachers and peers had higher motivation scores than students who reported feeling less comfortable. Moreover, racial and gender differences were found in motivation and feelings of comfort with teachers and peer groups. Hispanic students had higher scores on measures of motivation than Black students. Female students felt valued in school settings more than males.

Menchaca (1993) investigated the influence of socioeconomic status on academic motivation of one hundred twenty (120) Mexican American and White eighth grade students in a rural setting. Scores on a motivation instrument were obtained as it related to the socioeconomic status of the participants. The researchers found no significant differences between Mexican American and White students on motivation to succeed academically. However, differences in socioeconomic status were found with middle class students. Yet, Mexican American and White middle class students scored higher on measures of academic motivation than lower income and upper income students. No gender differences were found.

Brandon (1991) conducted a study on gender differences in twelfth grade Asian American students matriculating to college and attaining a degree. Using data from a national longitudinal study, Brandon found that Asian American females accomplished their educational goals more quickly than Asian American males. Asian American females of Chinese descent or who have recently immigrated to the United States also accomplished their educational goals more quickly than Asian American females born in the United States.

In summary, findings from the majority of research on gender, ethnicity, and family income as they influence student motivation to achieve academically indicate that there were differences in student motivation as it relates to gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, as measured by annual family income. However, the literature does confirm that students who complete Upward Bound are more highly motivated to complete high school and have higher graduation rates and college entrance rates than peers who did not complete Upward Bound. Although Upward Bound programs influence participants' motivation to matriculate to college, such influences are dependent upon specific program interventions. The programs that have a parental component produce higher high school graduation rates and college matriculation and retention rates than those without a parent involvement component.

Methodology

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 six 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. The data analysis for this study was accomplished through two major sections. Section One presented the demographic profile of the participants in the study, while Section Two addressed the major hypotheses formulated and tested in this investigation. The Chi Square Goodness-of-Fit Test and Chi Square Test of Independence were used to treat the data. All the hypotheses were tested at the .05 level or better.

Data Analysis

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

Gender

Number

Percent

Male

94

40.7

Female

137

59.3

Total

231

100.00

Age

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

Age

Number

Percent

17-20

110

47.6

21-24

80

34.6

25-28

41

17.8

Total

231

100.00

Ethnicity

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

Ethnicity

Number

Percent

African American

208

90.0

Hispanic American

20

8.2

Asian American

1

.5

Other

2

1.3

Total

231

100.0

Socioeconomic Status

The variable socioeconomic status was measured under three categories. There were one hundred seventy-eight or 77.1% of first-generation students who reported their income as very low, and sixteen or 6.9% who indicated their income status was moderately low. On the other hand, thirty-seven or 16% of the students identified their income as low (See Table 4).

Table 4

Frequency of Distribution of Participants by Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic

Status Number

Percent

Very Low Income

178

77.1

Moderately Low Income

16

6.9

Low Income

37

16.0

Total

231

100.00

Presented in Table 5 are the Chi Square Goodness-of-Fit results regarding the relationship between participating in the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and the college entrance rates of first-generation low-income students. Two hundred two or 87.4% of the students were attending college and twenty-nine or 12.6% of them were not attending college. A statistically significant relationship existed between participating in a federally funded program and the college entrance rate of first-generation low-income students at the .001 level (x2 = 129.563, df = 1, jK.001). Thus, hypothesis one was rejected.

Table 5

Chi Square Results Regarding the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and its Impact

on the College Entrance Rates of First-Generation Low-Income Students

Yes

No

Total

Number

202

29

231

Students

Percent

87.4

12.6

100.00

x2129.563, df = l, p =.000***

***Significant at the .001 level

Reported in Table 6 is the relationship between first-generation low-income students' gender and their college entrance rate using the Chi-Square Test of Independence. As indicated in the table, a total of Eighty-six or 90.5% of the male students and 116 or 84.7% of the female students revealed that they were attending college. On the other hand, only eight or 9.5% of the male first-generation students and twenty-one or 15.3% of the female first generation students indicated they were not attending college. No statistically significant relationship was found between first- generation low-income students' gender and their college entrance rates (x = 2.360, df=l, p>.05) at the .05 level. Therefore, hypotheses two was not rejected.

Table 6

Chi Square Results Regarding the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and its Impact on the College Entrance Rates of First-Generation Low-Income

Yes

No

Total

Number

86

8

94

Male

Percent

91.5

8.5

40.7

Number

116

21

137

Female

Percent

84.7

15.3

59.3

Number

202

29

231

Total

Percent

87.4

12.6

100.00

X2 = 2.360, df =l, p = .124

The Chi-Square Test of Independence was computed to measure the relationship between first-generation low-income students' age and their college entrance rates. As revealed in Table 7, a total of 96 or 87.3% of the students between the ages of 17 and 20 reported that they were attending college, as compared with 72 or 90% and 34 or 82% from the 21-24 and 25-28 age groups, respectively. In comparison, 14 or 12.7% of students in the 17-20 age group, 8 or 10% in the 21-24 age group and 7 or 17.01% in the 25-28 age group expressed that they were not attending college. A statistically significant relationship was not found between first generation college student' age and their college entrance rates at the .05 level (X2 = 1.241, df = 2, p >.05). Consequently, hypothesis three was not rejected.

Table 7

Chi Square Results Regarding the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and its Impact

on the College Entrance Rates of First-Generation Low-Income Students and Age

Matriculation

Total

Yes

No

Number

96

14

110

17-20

Percent

87.3

12.7

47.6

Number

72

8

80

21-24

Percent

90.0

10.0

34.6

Number

202

29

231

25-28

Percent

82.9

17.01

17.7

Number

202

29

231

Total

Percent

87.4

12.5

100.00

X2 = 1.241, df = 2, p = .538

The two-group independent-sample Chi-Square Test of Independence with a dichotomous response variable was calculated to assess the relationship between first- generation low-income students' ethnicity and college entrance rates. As reported in Table 8, 184 or 88.5% of African American students, and 16 or 78.9% of the Hispanic students were attending college. The only Asian student in the study was not attending college, but decided to enter the Air Force. Also 24 or 10.4% and 4 or 21.1 % African American and Hispanic students, respectively, were not attending college. Accordingly, the variable ethnicity and the college entrance rate of first-generation low-income students were statistically significantly related at the .05 level (X2 = 8.842, df =3, p <.05). As a result of these analyses, hypothesis four was rejected. Moreover, further data analysis using the contingency correlation (c = .19) between ethnicity and college entrance rates among first generation low-income students was used. The contingency correlation revealed a weak positive relationship.

Table 8

Chi Square Results Regarding the TRiO - Upward Bound Program and its Impact on the College Entrance Rates of First-Generation Low-Income Students and Ethnicity

Matriculation

Total

Yes

No

Number

184

24

208

African American

Percent

88.5

10.4

100.0

Number

15

4

19

Hispanic American

Percent

78.9

21.1

100.0

Number

0

1

1

Asian American

Percent

0

100.0

100.0

Number

3

0

3

Other

Percent

100.00

0

100.0

Number

202

29

231

Total

Percent

87.4

12.5

100.00

X2 = 8.842, df = 3, p = 031*

* Significant at the .05 level

Conclusions

An interesting finding of this study was the influence of ethnicity on the college entrance rates of first-generation low-income students. Ethnicity was found to be significantly related to the college entrance rates of first-generation students. This finding corresponds to those of Jones and Watson (1990), Mitchell (1997), Pardon (1992), National Center for Education Statistics (1998), and Thayer (2000). All of these researchers found a significant relationship between ethnicity and college entrance rates among students. Moreover, A subjective explanation for the prevailing finding in this area might be that African American students, more than their Hispanic counterparts have choices to attend colleges which accommodate for their academic shortcomings and that succeed in graduating them.

Equally important, another finding of this study was the impact of socioeconomic status on the college entrance rates of first generation students. Socioeconomic status and college entrance rates were found to be significantly related. This finding was favorable to those of Horvat (1997), Delaney (1998), and Thayer (2000). Results of studies conducted by these researchers revealed that socioeconomic status, especially income was a key predictor in the college entrance rates of students.

A somewhat surprising finding of this study was the influence of gender on the college entrance rates of students. In this study, gender was found not to be significantly related to the college entrance rates of first generation low-income students. This finding was not supported in the work by Nunez and Coccaro-Alamin (1998) and the Digest of Education Statistics (1999). These researchers found that first generation females usually attended college more often than first generation male students.

Finally, another finding of the present study that is noteworthy was the influence of age on the college entrance rates of first generation college students. Particularly, age was found not to be significantly related to the college entrance rates of first generation, low-income students. This finding was not favorable to those of Choy (2001). Choy found that age in conjunction with family background was an important factor in college-attendance of first-generation students. Additionally, Forester (2006) found that over 4 million students, a large portion of first generation students, were the right age to start college.