Low-Income Families Play a Powerful Role in the Success of Their Students

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Financial assistance is crucial to the academic success of low-income college students, but according to new research, family support may be even more influential.

A study published recently in Research in Higher Education showed that students with a strong familial cheering section did better at navigating college life and classes.

“Students who reported receiving more emotional support from their families were 19 percent more likely to have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, 19 percent more likely to accumulate at least 24 credits during their first year, and 24 percent more likely to finish a second year of college,” according to an Inside Higher Ed article about the study. “Financial support from their families was unrelated to all three of those outcomes.”

Low-income students who cited strong emotional support systems were also more likely to tell researchers they felt like they belonged on campus.

“Family support is related to how much kids study, how they engage with faculty, whether or not they belong,” researcher Josipa Roksa told Inside Higher Ed. “Those things that we hold dear in higher education as indications of academic and social engagement and that we usually try to address institutionally are actually related to parental support.”

The paper is based on results of a survey of 728 first-year students at eight different four-year colleges in Wisconsin. Researchers say the results aren’t necessarily generalizable to all low-income students, but the study does offer some intriguing food for thought.

“The general assumption is that because (low-income) families don’t have social/cultural capital, they can’t contribute as much,” Roksa said. “We’re saying that’s wrong.”

Learn more about the study.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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