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Ponnada: First-gen programs a plus

BY SRI PONNADA | SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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Twenty-five percent of students on campus are the first in their families to go to college, according to a UI press release; 1,100 of this 25 percent are entering our campus for the first time this year.

However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, after three years, first-generation students are less likely to remain enrolled in four-year institutions than their counterparts whose parents have bachelor’s or advanced degrees.

Obviously, enrolling in a college and then leaving without a degree can have significant monetary, occupational, and other consequences for individuals. Hence, it is important to provide this group of students with the support and guidance they need to stay motivated and finish their time at the university.

Luckily, we now have a fantastic new initiative targeting first-generation students headed by the Center for Diversity and Enrichment whose goal is “to bring to life the UI’s commitment to create a diverse and welcoming climate with a critical mass of students, staff, and faculty from communities underrepresented in higher education,” as stated on the center’s website.

Research and responses from first-generation faculty led to the creation of new events in order to increase interaction among first-generation students and other students and faculty and thus make them feel comfortable in the university setting, as reported by The Daily Iowan. The university also wishes to develop a student-mentoring program for first-generation students.

Although some members of this group may also be members of lower-income, under-represented ethnicity groups as well, it is critical to identify first-generation students as a unique group in order to address their needs, because these students come with extra problems.

In an interview with the DI, senior Bethliz Irizarry, the vice president of First-Generation Students Iowa, said she is excited about the initiative because there are many things she wishes she would have known when she was a freshman as a first-generation student.

While 69 percent of four-year students whose parents earned degrees graduate from college, only 40 percent of first-generation students are successful in doing so. Given the unique pressure first-generation students face, this shouldn’t surprise us. Instead, it should motivate us to play our part in welcoming these individuals to our community and making them feel at home.


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