Partnership For Learning

WaPo: Many first-generation college students are not succeeding

Kavitha Cardoza of WAMU Radio posted an editorial in Washington Post that highlights the unique challenges faced by first-generation college students.

The anecdote shared by Cardoza is Christopher Feaster, a D.C. native who overcame homelessness and poverty and eventually graduated high school with $200,000 in scholarships to his name. All his momentum hit a wall, however, after his first year at Michigan State, and he eventually dropped out.

As Cardoza notes, first-generation college students "typically find they have a whole new set of unanticipated barriers: academic, social and cultural, as well as their own internal self-doubt."

"Nearly one-third of students entering two- or four-year colleges in the United States each year are first-generation. These students are also more likely to be minorities, and they are far less likely to graduate: In six years, 40 percent of first-generation students will have earned a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or a certificate, vs. 55 percent of their peers whose parents attended college.

"When students do drop out, they often leave with debt and a sense of failure — that they’re not 'college material.' That feeling can alter the narrative about college for an entire community, says Monica Gray of D.C. College Success Foundation. 'Every student has a story of a cousin, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor who went to college but had to drop out,' she says. 'And that is what a lot of people use as a reason for students not to go.'"

Read the full editorial here