- Building Educational Resilience and Social Support:The Effects of the Educational Opportunity Fund Program Among First-and Second-Generation College Students
The ability to be resilient in the face of adversity is a critical topic of investigation for educators and psychologists. If educators and psychologists gain greater understanding of the processes that promote resilience in youth, they will be in a better position to support strengths and coping. Educational resilience is one such line of inquiry that refers to "students who despite economic, cultural, and social barriers still succeed at high levels" (Cabrera & Padilla, 2004, p. 152). Much of the educational research on resilient youth has been focused on protective factors that help them succeed in school. This line of inquiry fits with recent resilience literature that has begun to consider how communities can promote protective factors and increase resilience. Gonzalez and Padilla (1997) discovered that academic support and a sense of belonging in school promoted resilience among Mexican American students. Phinney and Haas (2003) reported on 30 ethnic minority college freshman most of whom were the first to attend college in their families. Students with more social support and a greater sense of self-efficacy were better able to cope with stress.
The shift from high school to college involves a change in identity from that of high school student to college attendee. Having a sense of identity is a key developmental milestone for adolescents (Erikson, 1968). Ethnic identity is one aspect of the individual's larger identity that refers to "feelings of ethnic belonging and pride, a secure sense of group membership, and positive attitudes towards one's ethnic group" (Phinney & Alipuria, 1996, p. 142). Like social support, another possibility was that an increased sense of ethnic identity contributes to greater resilience and coping among first- and second-generation college students. Clauss-Ehlers, Yang, & Chen (2006) explored resilience among diverse college-aged women and found that learning about one's ethnic identity and having an androgynous gender identity were associated with greater resilience amidst adverse situations. Although the above studies revealed important findings, missing from the literature is consideration of how programmatic efforts that promote social support, resilience, and ethnic identity can have a positive impact on the experience of first- and second-generation college students. [End Page 574]
The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program and First- and Second-Generation College Students
Educational Opportunity Fund programs were developed in New Jersey to provide access to higher education for financially disadvantaged students who are first- and second-generation college attendees. Pike and Kuh (2005) define a first-generation college student as a student where neither parent nor guardian earned a baccalaureate degree. A second-generation college student is defined as a student where the parents or guardians earned at least one baccalaureate degree (Pike & Kuh, 2005). While these definitions of first- and second-generation college students are mentioned to reflect terminology in the literature, it is important to note that the EOF program studied here includes students with no parent or guardian who received a baccalaureate degree and students with at most one parent who received a baccalaureate degree.
Research on first-generation college students tends to focus on three general areas. The first area makes demographic comparisons between first-generation college students and their peers. This research generally concludes that first-generation college students are "at a distinct disadvantage with respect to basic knowledge about postsecondary education (e.g., costs and application process), level of family income and support, educational degree expectations and plans, and academic preparation in high school" (Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2004, pp. 249-250). The second line of research concerns the transition from high school to college. This research states that first-generation college students confront the same issues and adjustments as other college students but also face cultural, social, and academic changes (Pascarella et al., 2004). The third area of investigation examines outcomes such as degree attainment and drop out rate (Richardson & Skinner, 1992). Less research exists regarding second-generation college attendees. Much of the research that does exist compares the two groups, determining which has been the "most successful" (Pike & Kuh, 2005...