A broadcast on Higher Ed Live entitled “#You Belong: Welcoming First-Gen and Low-Income Students to Campus,” provided insight on the unique needs of low income and first generation college students. Panelists agreed that it is important to provide each group of students with additional guidance and support during their time in college. Suggestions to improve the experience of students and increase their sense of belonging on campus included: free tutoring programs, need based scholarship programs, and Summer Bridge programs to help students transition into college. Additional suggestions included regular goal setting and feedback opportunities, partnering current first generation and low income students with incoming students so they can offer advice and share their stories, and allowing current students to return to their high schools to encourage other students from low income areas to attend college (Higher Ed Live, 2015).
Panelists also discussed the needs of family members of low income and first generation students, and suggested that social media be used to stream family events so that loved ones who cannot attend do not feel left out. Family resources were referenced frequently during the Higher Ed Live broadcast. Panelists argued that campus officials often assume low income and first generation students are synonymous, but that is not always the case. Low income and first generation students have different family circumstances. Sometimes students come from upper or middle class families, while others are self-supporting, and do not receive financial support from family members and caregivers. Many low income and first generation students live in nontraditional households, including single parent households, or with loved ones outside of their immediate family.
University officials should be mindful of these differing circumstances when they plan events for low income or first generation students, or speak to students and families at orientation. During the broadcast, panelists stated that during presentations to parents and caregivers, many presenters say “think back to when you were in college,” to explain their point. The caregivers of first generation students may feel excluded during these presentations, because they did not attend college and cannot relate to these examples. Many caregivers of low income and first generation students cannot travel to the institutions that their students attend because of work schedules, financial issues, or other reasons. These caregivers may also feel excluded because they cannot attend orientation and other parent and family events to receive important information. I learned that it is important for colleges and universities to consider the different circumstances of students and caregivers, and provide resources to ensure that they do not feel excluded or disadvantaged at their respective institutions. If institutions provide opportunities similar to the aforementioned programs to support low income and first generation students, retention and graduation rates would increase.
Higher Ed Live (Producer). (2015, September 2). #Youbelong: welcoming first-gen and low-income students to campus [Video file]. Retrieved from http://higheredlive.com/youbelong-welcoming-first-gen-low-income-students-to-campus/