Date Available


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Year of Publication


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly D. Bradley


Students who are the first in their families to attend college are less likely to earn a college degree as compared to their continuing-generation peers. In efforts to increase college graduation rates for first-generation college students, support programs designed to assist first-generation college students are increasing in numbers. These first- generation programs are relying on existing research to build effective curriculums. Even though an extensive body of literature exists in the fields of self-efficacy and first- generation college students, research investigating the self-efficacy of first-generation college students are extremely limited. The research is further limited when examining academic self-efficacy and generational status. The purpose of this study is to investigate if parental levels of education affect college students’ self-reported levels of academic self-efficacy. The following research questions guided this study: 1) Do survey response hierarchies differ between first-generation college students and their continuing- generation counterparts on a scale that measures academic self-efficacy?, 2) Do levels of item endorsability vary based upon parental levels of education? and 3) Do the results produced from the college student survey support the existing literature on first- generation college students and academic-self-efficacy? Quality control indicators were utilized to assess the soundness of the instrument and to ensure that the rating scale functioned appropriately. Variable maps were used to compare and contrast student responses and item hierarchies. Pairwise differential item functioning (DIF) was used to examine item endorsability based upon levels of parental education. Results encourage practitioners to be mindful of the importance of data-informed decision making.