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The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which the constructs of the Tinto model of student persistence are useful for explaining freshman-to-sophomore-year persistence of first-generation college students in different types of higher education institutions. Despite the expectation that a large number of future college enrollees will be first-generation college students, few studies have tested the applicability of theoretical models of student persistence, such as the Tinto model, to the persistence behavior of first-generation college students. The theoretical framework for this study was the Tinto model of student persistence, which is based on an interactionist theory of student persistence. It regards persistence mainly as an outcome of the quality of the student's interactions with the academic and social systems of the institution. Data for the study were collected through a survey of 331 first-generation college students enrolled as freshmen in West Virginia public higher education institutions during the fall semester of 1992. Four types of institutions were represented in the sample--associate of arts colleges, baccalaureate colleges, master's (comprehensive) university, and research university. The results of the study indicate that the particular combination and ordering of the variables that make up the Tinto model were not effective in explaining persistence of the first-generation college students in the study sample. Several variables--age, social integration, and institutional commitment II--did have significant, direct effects on persistence, but these effects were inconsistent with the hypothesized Tinto model. Apparently, both the factors that influence persistence and their degree of influence upon persistence vary depending upon the particular group of students under consideration. Colleges and universities interested in increasing retention of first-generation college students should conduct their own institutional research to determine why some of these students stay at their institutions, and, more importantly, why some leave. They will then be able to identify the institutional characteristics on their own campuses that can be changed to improve the chances that first-generation students persist to graduation.