The objective of the research was to examine a student population at Hofstra and other universities. Upon research, it was discovered that first generation students present a higher risk of not graduating within the typical four year time frame. Students who identify as first generation, at first glance, view college campuses as foreign territory. With resources that allow first generation students to get acclimated to the college environment, they have the ability to meet the four year standard. Workloads from home, fear of debt and anxiety surrounding the balance of time management discourage students who identify as first generation. With care from academic advisors, mentors and their professors, first generation students have the potential to blossom into fully capable collegiate students. First generation students have the ability to influence their peers and family members to receive secondary education – as college settings prove to grow more inclusive to new demographics.
Keywords: disadvantaged, first generation, student, mentor, inclusive
Education is multidimensional as it is fluid enough to be facilitated by licensed educators and by superiors in nuclear environments, such as the home. For students who identify as first generation learners, they have been exposed to knowledge from their homes and are interested in seeking education beyond the high school level. First generation students, as the name implies are the first to receive higher education in their families. While pressured to be the first in their families to get a degree, they are often faced with the pressure to keep up with the pace of the classroom. First-generation college students are ”educational pioneers” they are the first, or one of the first, in their families to pursue postsecondary education. First-generation university students are typically defined as those whose parents have not earned bachelor’s degrees, in contrast with continuing-generation students, who have at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree.
Although the definition of a first-generation college student may vary, and few institutions track their first-generation college students, there is general agreement that their numbers are increasing on U.S. college campuses. Today, it is estimated that about 21% of the student population consist of first generation students. This fact alone proves that times are changing – education is now evolving as an inclusive field. What do first generation students usually look like? Low-income and ethnic minority students are frequently the first members of their families to attend a university.
Climate and Culture
As the climate of education changes, so does the population who seek after it. First-generation student status is a significant contributor to social class-related disparities in higher education. “If the United States is to succeed as a nation in reducing educational disparity, it must make every effort to ensure that low-income and first-generation students have access to higher education and the support systems they need to obtain a college degree”, says Rine (2015) in Expanding Access and Opportunity. The Upward Bound program within the TRIO Program, is a helpful resource which recognizes first generation students and offers assistance to them, as they make their transition into college spaces.
TRIO programs began in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson signed the Educational Opportunity Act into law, reported Graham (2011), author of Learning a New World: Reflections on Being a First-Generation College Student. Since its creation, the TRIO program, has encouraged prospective students to both enroll and complete classes. Allowing access to assistance also means making sure students have the materials needed to succeed as college students. Mentors, and academic advisors aid in the success of a first generation student’s coursework completion. Here at Hofstra, academic advisors are in a myriad of offices across campus. The Centers for both University Advising and Academic Excellence are both hubs for first generation students to get the help they need.
With odds stacked against them, it is not uncommon for first generation students to fall behind. First-generation college students tend to be less academically prepared, have lower reading, math, and critical thinking skills, and be more likely to attend high schools with less rigorous curricula than students who have college attendance in their backgrounds, quotes Inkelas (2006). It was discovered that first generation students are not aware of the resources available to them once they attend college. Without help from advisors, first generation students may make the mistake of underestimating their abilities to complete coursework. “When they enroll in a university, first-generation students are more likely to enroll in remedial coursework, are less confident in their academic abilities, and are less likely to ask for help from faculty than their continuing generation”, Katrevich (2017) states. Furthermore, first generation students can be distracted by their lives outside of the college environment.
Work and family responsibilities provide additional challenges for first-generation students. Katrevich showed that first-generation students tend to work longer hours than other students. First-generation students are less likely to engage in high-impact educational opportunities such as learning communities, service learning, and study-abroad programs. Since these experiences tend to promote both academic and social integration, the exclusion of first-generation students may contribute to their collegiate disadvantages. Here at Hofstra, advisors are working closely with first generation students to get them more involved. “It is recommended that using creative approaches to motivate students, such as field trips, presentations by other first-generation college students, and collaborative planning for transition could benefit this population of students” says Tanjula Petty, author of Motivating First Generation Students to Academic Success and College Completion (2014).
Academic and student affairs practitioners have implemented several programmatic approaches to increase student involvement and enhance students’ connection to their institutions in an attempt to ease the transition to college. This means that administrators have realized that students must feel connected to their school’s academic programs and content, along with a social connection to their institution. Given their low academic preparation, lack of social integration, and burdensome work and family responsibilities, it is not surprising that about one fourth (26%) of US first-generation students drop out in their first year, compared to 7% of other students, Inkelas discovered. No need to worry: “first-generation and low-income students who attend smaller private colleges are far more likely to graduate—and to do so on time—than their peers at larger public universities”, Rine discovered (p.3).
An assertive accommodation strategy for success are integral to the reduction of the 26 percent dropout rate. Graham states, “an assertive accommodation strategy is when students use their first-generation status positively to achieve their academic goals”. By using programs specified for first generation students, such as Upward Bound this strategy enabled me to bond with other students based upon my status, especially other Upward Bound alumni. Hofstra’s NOAH Program, which caters to New York State low- income and first generation students allows for their respective students to create network with NOAH alumni. Optimistically, more first generation students will develop accommodation strategies to succeed in college.
First generation students, as the name implies are the first to receive higher education in their families. While pressured to be the first in their families to get a degree, they are often faced with the pressure to keep up with the pace of the classroom. First-generation college students are ”educational pioneers” they are the first, or one of the first, in their families to pursue postsecondary education. First-generation university students are typically defined as those whose parents have not earned bachelor’s degrees, in contrast with continuing-generation students, who have at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree. With the appropriate resources, FGS have the ability to not only meet the college standard, but overcome it.