Towards Equitable Access to Postsecondary Education: Learning From the Voices of First Generation Students
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This qualitative, phenomenological study investigated first generation students’ perceptions of the challenges they experienced in the process of accessing higher education and the type of school-based support that was received. Particular emphasis was placed on the impact of parental education level on access to postsecondary education (PSE) and how differences in support at the primary and secondary levels of schooling influenced access. Purposeful, homogenous sampling was used to select 6 first generation students attending a postsecondary institution located in Ontario. Analysis of the data revealed that several interrelated factors impact first generation students’ access to postsecondary education. These include familial experiences and expectations, school streaming practices, secondary school teachers’ and guidance counselors’ representations of postsecondary education, and the nature of school-based support that participants received. The implications for theory, research, and practice are discussed and recommendations for enhancing school-based support to ensure equitable access to postsecondary education for first generation students are provided.