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July 7, 2021

Expanding Promise Symposium SPARK Talks: First-Generation Students Design Team

On June 2nd, 2021, College Promise and ETS held day one of the Expanding Promise Symposium, a virtual event centered around the findings of five research design teams examining the wrap-around supports and financial sustainability solutions that best aid and enable different groups of students to enter and persist to, through, and beyond college into living wage jobs and community life. The symposium brought together students, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and other Promise stakeholders to review and discuss scholarly insights for five key student populations: First-Generation Students, Youth In or Aged-Out of Foster Care, Students with Disabilities, Student Parents, and Students Needing Academic Support. The symposium’s programming included lightning-round talks, in which a member of each research design team gave a 5-minute presentation summarizing the findings and recommendations for their studied student population.

Krissy DeAlejandro is the Executive Director of tnAchieves, a scholarship and mentoring program that supports students as they transition from high school through post-secondary education. She represented the First-Generation Students team, which also includes Adnan Bokhari of National Immigration Law Center, Lisette Nieves of New York University, Marco Torres of New York University, and Timari Ray of Pellissippi State Community College.

DeAlejandro shared that 35% of undergraduate students identify as first generation students. These students often find themselves intimidated by the postsecondary landscape and need additional guidance or support to find success. DeAlejandro noted several reasons why first-generation students are more likely to drop out than non-first-generation students, ranging from the lack of finances to conflict with home-life demands.

The research team recommended more research and data collection targeting first-generation students, early financial incentives for college pathways, and dedicated scholarships and internships for first-generation students. Other recommendations included stackable credits for working students and additional supports like child and sibling care supports, as well as financial assistance for other critical non-tuition costs associated with college—such as books, room and board, and transportation.

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