Improving Access for Success


Engle, J., & Tinto, Vincent. (2008). Moving beyond access: College success for low-income, first generation students. The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, 1-30.

In looking at a variety of scholarly readings this week, I discovered Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students. This reading was focused on college attainment rates in the United States for underrepresented populations. The authors focused on providing a well defined report that, “examines the current status of low-income, first-generation college students” (Engle & Tinto, 2008). The information presented was supported by data from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, Beginning Postsecondary Students Study, and Baccalaureate and Beyond Study. Included in the report were metrics on degree attainment rates and persistence. The report also provided details on barrier’s that are being faced by the students in the selected research community.

The writers in this case introduced their research with an executive summary that focused on the four following topics.

• Why does college success matter?

• How do low-income, first-generation students fair in college?

• What are the constraints on college success for low-income, first-generation students?

• How can we promote college access and success for low-income, first-generation students?

Each of these topics was represented with supporting material that helped to frame the problem. The introduction of the study then continued to outline the issues at hand with degree completion numbers with the fore mentioned student populations. Graphical charts and information were presented throughout to show data and statistics on first to second year persistence, six-year outcomes by types of institutions first attended, transfer rates, student retention rates by major, degree completions rates, and many more.  Essentially the article was inundated with materials to help support the position being presented. Engle and Tinto (2008) feel that large gaps persist in terms of access  to and success in higher education in this country.

As an individual who is looking to develop my own research skills, I have put lots of thought into the best way to present my research to ensure it will be able to have an impact in the future. After reading this article by Engle and Tinto, it helped me to see that it is important on how you organize and present your research information and data, to engage and capture your intended audience. In presenting information and supporting data in a coherent manner that flows smoothly for the reader, it can make a difference on capturing a wider audience. For those who are interested in looking at research on educational attainment rates and college completion rates, I would recommend this reading. The strength of the argument was good, and the supporting material helped support the argument of the authors.

Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students grabbed my attention not only for the subject matter being discussed, but also because the smooth format, flow, and clear presentation of data within the report. It read as a very well put together writing with both clean, clear, and concise information while also showing support for key topics. The use of research data and statistics, to help support the final recommendations was a sound approach for this reading. Each area of the article was well defined, sections were strategically placed to capture the reader’s attention. The visual aids of charts and graphs were well placed, and  helped me see the result of what the writers were intending for readers to gain from their study. The reading certainly helped me see, “that while college access has increased for low-income, first-generation students, the opportunity to successfully earn a college degree has not” (Engle & Tinto, 2008). I will also note that the data and information were presented in methods that I understood and could see myself duplicating a similar style in my own research, in the future.

The findings that were presented in this report were significant and presented with a logical approach. Engle and Tinto did a good job at presenting appropriate materials by use of their research data, to support their theory. The examples presented throughout the writing engaged me as a reader and the authors choice to use visual aids helped to grasp my attention as a reader. Because they offered such a wide variety of data and material, the visual aids were well placed in were key to the supporting metrics not get lost in the writing. Although my preconceived knowledge agreed with their position, the study findings did help to reinforce my position that there is a problem with low-income, first-generation college students and the various barriers that are continuing to hinder college completion rates for this student population.

The conclusions to the reading were determined to provide insight and data to support efforts for educators and policy makers to improve college access and success. (Engle & Tinto, 2008) There was  a connection made to materials being presented and the theoretical position of the authors. The authors had a well stated position from the initial summary and introductory pieces; that continued to flow through their concluding words. I felt this article did a nice job of summing it all up in the end by making  sure readers understood the problem presented, and the recommendations to help combat the issue moving forward.

After reading Why College Retention Matters, I noticed its relation to the study Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection by Tyrone C. Howard. Although they are not directly linked, both articles crossed paths with their communities of practice, in focusing on low-income, first-generation college students, their access, and the educational attainment rates of these populations. I think further study in the combined areas of critical reflection, educational attainment rates, and research looking at success rates for minorities might help me build on this research. In looking at both readings that I blogged about this week, they have helped me as a reader come up with new ideas for research as my action research cycle swings into motion.

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