Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work
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. This pilot study examines indicators of social capital among First-generation college students (First-gen, n=39) compared with Second-generation peers (Second-gen, n=71) at a university serving the Central Appalachian region where many barriers exist to higher education. Students with more social capital indicators are expected to give higher confidence ratings for their ability to complete college. Eligibility criteria were being 18 or older enrolled in a social work course. Anonymous paper surveys were completed, and data were analyzed using SPSS. Indications of social capital were lower for First-gen students in this study. More First-gen students had been in foster care and rated families as less supportive of college than Second-gen peers. More First-gen students made the decision to attend, applied to, and selected a college by navigating the process on their own. First-gen students reported working significantly more paid hours while taking college classes. They were less confident of graduating, but felt college was needed in order to get gainful employment. This study indicates a need to expand education and support to families during the college application process. Creating ways to reduce the need for paid work while taking classes so students can focus on coursework could also improve the likelihood of success in college for First-gen students.