Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: College Major Choices and Transitions Among First Generation Students

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 9:10 AM
Tuttle Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

C. Lockwood Reynolds, Kent State University
Research has demonstrated that first generation college students are less likely to be retained and less likely to complete compared to otherwise similar students.  There are many potential explanations for these observed success gaps.  This project investigates differences in how first-generation students select college majors as a possible factor in differential success, using a large institutional dataset.  Given that first-generation students come to college with different information and expectations, how students make choices about majors could be an important element in understanding their lower success rate.  The data covers a number of incoming cohorts and provides information on first-generation status as well as other individual characteristics from the application file, including test scores, high school GPA, high school name and ZIP code of residence.  The data also includes information on the student’s coursework and grades, dormitory residency and, most importantly, initial major choice and later major transitions.  Both characteristics of the major and individual characteristics of the students will be investigated.  Characteristics of the major include both local and national labor market returns, overall popularity of the major and overall difficulty of the major.  Factors specific to the student include performance in initial major coursework and major choices of prior students from the same high school to capture a potential information set that first-generation students could rely upon.