Project Title

Exploring Social Capital Among First-Generation College Students

Department

Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work

Abstract

Social capital is a measure of the relational networks that support individual growth and well-being. It has been examined in relation to business and community organizations, but little is known about social capital regarding higher education attainment. Students in Central Appalachia live in communities that have some of the lowest education levels, highest poverty rates, and poorest health and well-being of any region in the United States and thus face many barriers to attending college. This exploratory study examines indicators of social capital among first-generation college students (n=39) compared with undergraduate peers (n=71) at a university serving the Central Appalachian region. The hypothesis is students with more social capital will give higher confidence ratings for their ability to successfully complete a college degree and get gainful employment after graduation. Eligibility criteria were being 18 or older and taking a social work course. Volunteers completed anonymous paper surveys and data were analyzed using SPSS. Results reflect significant differences in indicators of social capital among first-generation students compared to undergraduate peers. More first-generation students apply for and select colleges on their own with limited parental assistance. First-generation students report financial aid as a significant factor in choosing a college and this group works significantly more paid hours while taking college classes than undergraduate peers. Recommendations include increasing parent support with the college application process, adding more financial aid options, and creating ways to reduce the need for paid work while taking classes to improve likelihood of success in college.

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Poster

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Exploring Social Capital Among First-Generation College Students

Social capital is a measure of the relational networks that support individual growth and well-being. It has been examined in relation to business and community organizations, but little is known about social capital regarding higher education attainment. Students in Central Appalachia live in communities that have some of the lowest education levels, highest poverty rates, and poorest health and well-being of any region in the United States and thus face many barriers to attending college. This exploratory study examines indicators of social capital among first-generation college students (n=39) compared with undergraduate peers (n=71) at a university serving the Central Appalachian region. The hypothesis is students with more social capital will give higher confidence ratings for their ability to successfully complete a college degree and get gainful employment after graduation. Eligibility criteria were being 18 or older and taking a social work course. Volunteers completed anonymous paper surveys and data were analyzed using SPSS. Results reflect significant differences in indicators of social capital among first-generation students compared to undergraduate peers. More first-generation students apply for and select colleges on their own with limited parental assistance. First-generation students report financial aid as a significant factor in choosing a college and this group works significantly more paid hours while taking college classes than undergraduate peers. Recommendations include increasing parent support with the college application process, adding more financial aid options, and creating ways to reduce the need for paid work while taking classes to improve likelihood of success in college.