OCAIR Best Presentation Winning Proposal –
Factors Related to Student Retention & Success: A Study of FTFT First-Generation Students at UNC Pembroke
Chunmei Yao
Zhixin Kang

According to 2015 U.S. News & World Reports, UNC Pembroke ranked as the most diverse institution in the South. At UNC Pembroke, many first generation students have faced unique challenges in retention and graduation. The purpose of this study was to find out how well first generation students have performed compared with other groups at UNCP regarding first-year retention and six-year graduation. A total of 3,151 FTFT Freshmen were identified using cohort from Fall 2008 to Fall 2010; among them 1,393 (44.2%) were identified as first-generation students. The results indicated that academic performance related factors including high school GPA, fall term GPA, and difference between attempted and earned credit hours in first term had significantly positive impact on both first-year retention and six-year graduation; while, the factor of low family income had negative impact on retention and graduation at UNCP. Factors related to rural areas in NC also positively associated with both retention and six-year graduation.
Over the years, number of first-generation students attending post-secondary institutions has been increasing. Around 25% of undergraduate student body was first generation students (Engle & Tinto, 2008). Previous studies indicated that first-generation college students were different from their peers, particularly in persistence and degree completion. They would have long, indirect, and uncertain pathway towards their degree completion. As Ishitani (2003) found that the risk of attrition in their first year was 71% higher than their non-first generation peers. If counting first-generation and low income simultaneously, students who were first-generation and from low income family were nearly four times more likely to leave higher education after their first year (Engle et al, 2006).
This study examined what factors were significantly associated with first-year retention and six-year graduation to guide practice at UNC Pembroke. Logistic regressions were run to test which factors were significantly associated or predict student retention and graduation. The results may guide institutions to examine their own factors, re-structure curriculum, build learning community for different type of students, and provide authentic advising to first-generation students to support their success

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