The Role of Family Support in Facilitating Academic Success of Low-Income Students

Roksa & Kinsley, 2018 / / June 2018

While college education is a key to upward mobility, low-income students are substantially less likely to earn bachelor’s degrees than their more economically advantaged peers. Prior higher education literature illuminates various factors contributing to student success, but few studies consider the role of family support after students enter higher education. We examine how two different forms of family support—emotional and financial—are related to academic outcomes (grades, credit accumulation, and persistence) among low-income college students. Our analyses, based on a sample of 728 first-year low-income students attending eight four-year institutions, indicate that family emotional support plays an important role in fostering positive academic outcomes. Family emotional support is beneficial for academic outcomes as it promotes psychological well-being and facilitates greater student engagement. Financial support is not related to the outcomes examined in the sample as a whole. However, interaction models point to variation by first-generations status wherein continuing-generation students benefit more from family financial support than their first-generation peers. Presented findings offer valuable insights into the role of families in supporting low-income students in college and can inform institutional policies and practices aimed at facilitating their success.