Distance Education Enrollment is Associated with Greater Academic Progress Among First Generation Low-Income Undergraduate Students in the US in 2008

March 22, 2012


First Generation undergraduate students from low-income households (FGLI students) continue to have substantially higher dropout rates than non first generation students or students from more affluent households despite numerous efforts over many decades to improve graduation rates among this group of students. The purpose of this research is to determine whether FGLI students in the US who enroll in distance education classes are likely to make greater academic progress (more likely to be enrolled for the entire academic year and more likely to be enrolled full time during the academic year) than FGLI students who enroll in face-to-face classes exclusively. For this research, we used data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS) conducted in 2008. The NPSAS 2008 used a complex survey design to collect data from a nationally representative sample of about 113,500 postsecondary undergraduate students in the US. The results of this study show that FGLI students who enrolled in distance education were significantly less likely to have an enrollment gap in 2008 than FGLI students who did not enroll in any distance education class. Indeed, the negative association between distance education enrollment and the likelihood of an enrollment gap was significantly greater among FGLI students than among non-FGLI students. Distance education enrollment was also associated with a greater likelihood of full-time enrollment in 2008, among both FGLI students and non-FGLI students. These results, from a large nationally representative sample, suggest that providing FGLI students with greater access to distance education classes may increase degree progress rates and degree completion rates.

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration