The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Mentoring First Generation College Students: A Mixed Methods Study

Sunday, January 20, 2013: 9:15 AM
Executive Center 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Cheryl D. Lee, PhD, Professor, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA
Background and Purpose: The study explored the outcomes for first generation college students involved in a formal mentoring program at a large public university. Although there are benefits to postsecondary education, certain groups are less likely to graduate from institutions of higher learning. Many of these individuals come from underserved minority groups. Students whose parents are not college graduates are more likely to have lower retention rates than their counterparts and are 8.5 times more likely to drop out of college (Ishanti, 2006). Mentoring is associated with an apprentice model of education and is increasingly implemented as a retention strategy for undergraduate education. Evaluations of these programs are sparse. In a recent qualitative study of students of Latino ethnicity, mentored students demonstrated more interest in obtaining graduate education (Luna & Prieto, 2009). Although most studies have not employed a comparison group, it has been reported that mentored students have higher retention and graduation rates, higher grade point averages, more academic units completed per semester, increased marketable discipline, skills, behaviors, and attitudes as well as greater social and emotional interactions between faculty and students (Rose, 2003).

The study’s research questions were: (1) Which mentoring functions were most important - teaching about success at the university, providing challenges, explaining politics, giving career advice, protecting, sponsoring, friendship, and demonstrating trust? It was hypothesized that friendship, demonstrating trust and teaching about academic success would be the most important functions. (b) What was the relationship between mentoring and academic success of students? It was hypothesized that students in the mentoring program would have higher GPAs compared to those who were not in the mentoring program.

Methodology:A mixed methods design was used. The quantitative portion utilized a cross-sectional on-line survey design. The sample consisted of 306 participants - 29 mentors, 150 mentees and 127 undergraduate students not in the mentoring program. Female students (85%) dominated the study while 53% were of Latino ethnicity and 17% were Asian Americans. Thirty mentors and mentees participated in one hour qualitative interviews using a structured guide. The survey contained two standardized instruments, the Alleman Mentoring Activities Questionnaire (Alleman and Clarke, 2000) and The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (Zimet et al. 1988). Descriptive statistics, correlations, dependent means t-tests, chi-squares, MANOVA  and regression analyses were conducted. The qualitative interview transcriptions were coded for themes. Two raters reviewed and coded the data. Inter-rater reliability was 85%.

Results: The strongest mentoring functions were: demonstrated trust and teaching how to academically succeed. Hypothesis one was partially supported. Students in the program had higher reported GPAs confirming hypothesis 2. The qualitative interviews indicated that mentors perceived they benefitted from interactions with mentees, but compensation was problematic. The mentees were satisfied with the program and perceived they academically and personally benefitted.

Conclusions and Implications: Formal mentoring programs can assist the adjustment of first generation college students. Additional outreach should be made to male students especially since they are more likely to drop out of college. Additional research is recommended across university sites.