The 23% of first-generation are to likely leave

The most pressing issue facing higher education
today is the low retention rates among first-generation college students.
First-generation college students, as defined by D’Allegro and Kerns (2010), are
students who are the first in their families to attend college or seek a higher
education. According to Bowen (1977), the goal of higher education is to
advance social progress and increase competencies among individuals. Little and
Arthur (2010) note, “as agents of social mobility, universities are
distributors of life chances as well as, in partnership with the rest of the
educational system, they enhance the life chances of everyone” (p.293). Therefore,
to remain true to the core of higher education, it is paramount that
practitioners work to not only increase access for first-generation students,
but to ensure their success through to graduation.

            There
is disagreement among higher education scholars on the definition of a
first-generation college student; therefore, it is difficult to pinpoint exact
statistics regarding the percentages of these students on campus. According to
a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (2010), a reasonable
estimate for the number of first-generation college students within higher
education is 50% (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Of those 50%, 27.4% of
first-generation students earn a degree after four years in comparison to 42.1%
of students who come from families with parents who have higher education
experience (DeAngelo, Franke, Hurtado, Pryor, & Tran, 2011).  Furthermore, 50.2% of first-generation college students will have a
college degree within six years of enrolling in school, compared to
approximately 64.2% of their more advantaged peers who were not
first-generation students (DeAngelo, Franke, Hurtado, Pryor, &
Tran, 2011). Also,
at 4-year institutions, 23% of first-generation are to likely leave college
before their second year in comparison to 10% of non first-generation students
(Choy, 2001). Thus, it is
evident that this student population is not achieving the success that it is
capable of.

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            There are many factors that
contribute to the low retention rates among first-generation college students
including academic, financial, and social. According to, Engle and Tinto
(2008), first-generation students are, “less likely to be engaged in the
academic and social experiences that foster success in college such as studying
in groups, interacting with faculty and other students, participating in
extracurricular activities, and using support services” (p.3). In addition,
these students delay getting involved in extracurricular activities and campus
life until they feel they have “their academic lives under control” (Terenzini,
1994, p.6). Since first-generation status is not something that higher
education practitioners can “see” they may fail to recognize the challenges
these students face or the special support that these students need in order to
be successful and graduate. Even before arriving on campus, these students are
already at a disadvantage in comparison to non first-generation students. Thomas
and Quinn (2007) note that these students “did not enter the university on
equal terms” (p.56). As a result, first-generation students are less
academically prepared, have little knowledge about the price of attending
college, have lower educational expectations, and are less likely to receive help
when applying to colleges (Choy, 2001). 

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