Family Life and College Success: A Cohort Study

Study by:
Richard M. Lee - University of Minnesota
In 2004, my graduate students and I began to collaborate with the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) on the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. The mission of MCAE is to develop and foster inclusive, coherent learning for multicultural undergraduates at the University of Minnesota through educational support programs, community engagement, cultural activities, and campus-wide collaborations. Toward this end, we have worked closely with MCAE staff to develop an annual survey study of incoming students of color that would provide a group profile of the students served by MCAE. The survey is administered to students who attend new student orientation prior to the start of Fall semester. 
The purpose of our study is to assess the personal, family, and cultural experiences of entering students of color and to relate these experiences with their academic performance and transition into young adulthood. Specifically, we have adapted a risk and resilience framework to examine protective factors at the individual and family levels that may serve as a resource for students as they transition to college. We also have identified a variety of cultural risk factors that are traditionally overlooked in resilience research. Measures include questions pertaining to their expectations and worries about college life, family satisfaction and obligations, parent-child relations, ethnic identity, acculturation, perceived discrimination, subjective distress, somatic symptoms, and prosocial and risk behaviors. At the end of each academic year, we also obtain academic records to assess academic performance. 
To date, we have surveyed over 600 students of color across three cohorts of freshmen (2004, 2005, and 2006). Asian American, primarily Hmong, students represent over half of the sample, followed by African American and African-born students. The majority of students (60%) are children of immigrants. These students represent approximately 16% of all students of color enrolled at the university. In collaboration with CSIS, we recently initiated an online follow-up survey to assess the life changes and well-being of the 2004 and 2005 cohort. This short-term longitudinal data collection is ongoing. 
For more information about this study, please contact Richard Lee.